Let’s do some good for our public schools, not celebrate funding cuts
By Rep. Dave Considine (D-Baraboo)
When budgets are tight, we all do what we can to cut back on unnecessary expenses and find extra money here and there. Many of us know what it feels like to make sacrifices for our households, our communities, and our state. It is not easy, but we do it because we know it is best for our future. Right now, the state’s Joint Finance Committee is doing just that: deciding which programs are essential, which ones could be trimmed to save money, and how we can generate more revenue to get our state back on track.
In the last three state budgets, K-12 education has been on the chopping block, and is still not funded well enough to keep up with the cost of living. Even today, funding is still below spending levels for 2008. Our educators, administrators, and students deserve a great deal of credit: they are working harder than ever and getting results, in spite of a major lack of support from the state. But this budget is asking K-12 education to face another $127 million in funding cuts – that’s a $150 per pupil decrease.
We all know that some things just can’t be cut from a household budget. Given the choice, most people wouldn’t consider cutting out their grocery budget for the month, or deciding that their mortgage just isn’t worth paying. Why do it to our public schools? They have been working hard to comply with the state’s rollercoaster of requirements and funding changes, all while trying to maintain the high quality instruction we expect for our kids. But there is a limit to what they can do with so little support, and there comes a time when they cannot reasonably work any harder unless we want our teachers to quite literally live at school.
As a taxpayer, I firmly believe that we should work toward the most efficient use of public funds in our schools. But let’s shift our focus away from blaming teachers and administrators for the extremely limited support they receive from the state. Our public schools can certainly improve, but nothing will get better if we continue to decimate their funding and blame educators for the results. Actions like expanding voucher schools do nothing to help the problems our public schools face, especially those in our most rural and urban areas.
As we work to change the conversation about public education, it is up to you as citizens to keep a close eye on what happens to K-12 funding in the state budget. Whether you agree with the Joint Finance Committee’s actions or not, stay informed. Contact the committee members, reach out to your own legislators. When it’s our turn in May or June to debate the budget in the Assembly and Senate, let’s implement new solutions for our schools, instead of cuts. Let’s not blame teachers and administrators for poor decisions made at the state level. And let’s be realistic about what’s being done to our public schools in the state budget: decreasing Governor Walker’s proposed funding cuts is in no way a victory for our children. A real victory would mean adding money to public school appropriations for the first time in seven years. Whether it’s $127 million or $127, cutting financial support for public education in any amount is not right, and it’s not what our state needs.