Wisconsin: Education Dominates the Day at First JFC Legislative Budget Hearing in Waukesha

“Invest in OUR NOW, please.” – Samuel Beaver, Milwaukee Public Schools Student, with Leaders Igniting Transformation

—“We’re here together to ask you to be a once in a generation leader supporting our students in the 2023-25 budget. … These [referenda] aren’t for fancy bells or whistles. They’re to keep the lights on.” – Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC President

—“Milwaukee Public Schools is proud to serve all students.” – Dr. Keith Posley, Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent

“Wisconsin has built an enormous budget surplus by defunding our public schools for more than a decade. … Joint Finance Committee members should show our students … that they are committed to using a substantial piece of this record surplus to invest in, to recruit, to retain quality public education workers and the services and opportunities that they deserve.” – Ingrid Walker-Henry, MPS educator, at Wisconsin Public Education Network press conference  

Dear Public Education Champions,  After two years of a frozen budget, the morning after an exhausting spring election, public education was once again the dominant issue on citizens’ minds at the first Joint Finance Committee listening session on the biennial state budget today in Waukesha. 

We kicked off the morning with a public education press conference featuring parents and caregivers, educators, administrators, school board members, and public school advocates, whose message was loud and clear: the governor’s common sense, kids-first education budget proposal is the minimum acceptable framework — Wisconsin students deserve a $1500/pupil revenue limit increase to keep up with inflation. Special education students deserve no less than 60% reimbursement from the state. And public school districts and their supporters are united in their support for these common sense proposals.   In formal testimony, we tracked people’s priorities, and public education funding — pre-K through higher education — made up 39% of the overall testimonies delivered to the testimony in person at the Waukesha County Expo Center.

We tracked 235 total testimonies on the budget, and many others registered their positions in writing. Other popular issues included healthcare, including support for mental health funding and funding for people with disabilities; and municipal and county service funding.  Notably, those supporting private voucher and independent charter school spending were also present in significant numbers, arguing for increases in the use of public dollars on privately-operated and often religious education. 

Our full live tracking document is here, and footage of the full hearing is archived at WisEye.org. Note that only individuals who spoke are tracked, not those who stood without speaking. Topics with fewer than six testimonies made it into our catch-all “other” category; the most frequent among these were museum funding, arts board funding, support for drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants.

Our plan this year is to not only deliver stories to lawmakers, but to embed budget advocacy and awareness into everyday conversation and build a powerful, nonpartisan, grassroots movement for the budget our kids deserve. 

If you want to see a pro-public budget become reality, YOU are a budget ambassador. And now is the time for our advocacy to kick into action. Click here to join. Please do let us know which hearing you’ll be at — we want to say hi! And be sure to wear your pro-public gear and/or swing by our table to pick some up!  Help us make sure everyone in Wisconsin understands the budget process, the enormous stakes for our kids, and the popularity of our priorities. 

Join us in Eau Claire on Tuesday, Wisconsin Dells on Wednesday, and/or Minocqua on April 26; share your testimony in writing with Joint Finance Committee members, your own lawmakers, and us; and amplify the chorus of public education advocacy through this process! Join us as we’ll be at all of the hearings!  

The Waukesha County Expo Center was packed. By 5:00, many people who registered to speak at 9:00 still had not been called. If you hope to deliver testimony live at one of the upcoming hearings, arrive early at the upcoming hearings to make sure you have time! And remember that submitting written testimony, and showing up to register your position without speaking aloud, are both options.  

Remember to check out our Budget HQ for information and resources! — Team Public

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