Public education ‘pep rally’ takes aim at budget proposal

Public education ‘pep rally’ takes aim at budget proposal
Prior to Sun Prairie public school rally, Wisconsin Public Education network talks about legislative cuts.

Many of the 200 southern Wisconsin educators, administrators, parents and students attending a so-called pro-education ‘pep rally’ at Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School Monday took direct aim at the current legislative public education package proposal.

The most pressing issue for many is using public tax dollars to fund private school vouchers.

“It makes me worried, sad, mostly,” Stoughton Board of Education Member Yolibeth Fitzgibbon said. “It means less money for the teachers, for hiring good teachers. And for keeping good teachers in our school district.”

Madison Board of Education Member Anna Moffit, whose son Felix has autism, calls the proposal discriminatory.

“These schools continue to exclude and discriminate against students like (Felix) who just happen to have a disability,” Moffit said.

While the Republican plan restores Gov. Scott Walker’s $127 million cut in public school funding next year, the new plan keeps funding flat for the first year while increasing funding by $100 per student, or about $69 million, above current levels in the second year.

The budget committee’s plan would create a new funding mechanism to treat voucher students similar to those in public school who use open enrollment to attend another nearby public school. That approach, based on an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, would result in public schools losing about $48 million in funding over the next two years.

The plan also calls for eliminating teacher licensing standards, which several superintendents said could mean someone without a bachelors degree could be hired to teach core subjects.

“That’s disrespectful to the profession and students,” Fort Atkinson Superintendent Jeff Zaspel said.

Rally organizer Heather Dubois Bourenane, from the Wisconsin Public Education Network, hopes lawmakers take notice.

“I hope that they begin to realize that the people who are here are the people who vote, are the people who belong to the communities they serve,” Bourenane said.

Back when the proposal was introduced in May, budget committee co-chairs Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, defended their plan as Democrats called for nearly half a billion dollars more to be spent on schools.

“We don’t want the schools to suffer,” Darling said at a news conference.