Back to School, Better than Ever
As the sun begins to set a little earlier and August turns into September, it’s time for our kids to trade their bikes and swimsuits for notebooks and backpacks. September is back to school month and a lot has changed since we sent them off to school last year. While they were busy with their reading, writing and arithmetic, the Legislature was working on improving schools all over the state.
Every year for the last eight years, the Legislature and Governor Walker have taken steps to improve Wisconsin’s education system for our students. From giving school districts the ability to reward their best teachers to providing parent’s more choices for which school their child attends, we’ve been encouraging new ways of tackling old problems.
The most recent state budget continued this trend by increasing state funding for public schools both in general and targeted areas. The budget added over $600 million in new funding, bringing the total state investment in K-12 education to around $12 billion, the highest it has ever been. This included additional funding for largely rural public schools with high transportation costs, improving overall academic performance, assistance for student apprenticeships and technical college fees, mental health training programs and much more. We have invested more actual dollars into the state’s K-12 system than ever before.
Our number one goal for education in Wisconsin is to help students succeed at all levels of learning. That’s why our plans for education go beyond high school. We’ve increased funding for our technical college system and are making it easier for students to attend by providing $5 million in grants for financial aid. We are also working to keep the UW System as affordable as possible for students. 2019 will mark the 6th year of a tuition freeze for those attending UW System schools. In the years leading up to this, tuition had gone up by 118%. On top of freezing tuition, need-based financial aid is at its highest level ever.
As our long term goals take shape, we can’t overlook the recent steps taken to help our students and their families today. In the past few months, the state legislature set up a tax credit program to give back surplus tax revenue to hard working families with children. The new tax credit gives families with children under 18 in the house $100 per child so that parents can decide how to spend that money on their child’s needs for the upcoming school year.
Also, to help get ready to send our kids back to school, the Back to School Sales Tax Holiday ran for five days in August. The goal was to provide more tax relief to hardworking families. Supplies like clothing, computers, and classroom supplies were exempt for state sales tax during this time to reduce the cost of these necessary school supplies.
Quality education should not just be a goal we work towards, it should be an everyday reality for our kids. Our education reforms will help us obtain that reality. While education in Wisconsin is generally excellent, we can always do better. Summer fun is coming to an end and while our students get back to lessons and learning, the legislature will continue working towards an education system worthy of Wisconsin.