Walker promotes education spending proposal in Fennimore

Dubuque Telegraph Herald  - BY BENNET GOLDSTEIN - bennet.goldstein@thmedia.com

FENNIMORE, Wis. — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker used a stop Monday morning in Fennimore to highlight education allocations included in his 2017-2019 biennial budget proposal.

The governor spoke to more than 100 Fennimore Community Schools students and staff. His stop was part of a statewide tour of schools to promote a $76.1 billion package, which includes a $649 million allocation for K-12 schools.

“If we’re going to help build a stronger workforce in the state, the fundamental building blocks of that starts right here, starts in kindergarten through 12th grade,” Walker said. “In this budget, we put more money in K-12 … education than we’ve ever put into our state system.”

The governor’s proposal invests an additional $510 million in per-pupil aid, which amounts to a $200-per-student increase in 2017-18 and a $204 increase in 2018-19.

In the Fennimore school district, that amounts to a more-than-$300,000 increase in per-pupil aid over two years, Superintendent Jamie Nutter said. The district also would receive an additional $154,000 in sparsity aid, which is allocated for small districts with low enrollment and population density.

“That will have a significant impact,” he said.

Fennimore High School junior TJ Kenney inquired if the funding allocation would increase taxes paid by students’ parents.

Walker said it would not, adding that under his proposal, taxes in 2018 would decrease.

“The economy has gotten better,” he said. “That’s part of the reason why we need so much more help building a workforce.”

State Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, also attended the event. He said he will work to ensure the dollars in Walker’s education spending proposal remain in the budget.

“I think there is a lot of buy-in in the Legislature. The money appears to be there,” Tranel said. “Frankly, that’s because of a lot of the decisions we made in the past to try to make Wisconsin ‘open for business.’”

Should the state not provide new school funding, Nutter said, additional responsibility to finance district expenses might fall on local taxpayers if voters pass a ballot measure to increase the district’s revenue limit.

“If (Walker’s proposal) doesn’t go through, we’re back to the drawing board,” Nutter said.

Prior to his address, Walker visited two classrooms. In one, first-graders demonstrated use of an interactive whiteboard. The district purchased the electronic equipment using a $30,000 grant provided by the state’s Infrastructure Grant Program through Technology for Educational Achievement.

Walker hopes to increase funding for the grant program by $22.5 million.