Gov. Evers joins staff at MPS to welcome back elementary schoolers and announces plans for 2023-25 education budget

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The last of the students in the Milwaukee Public School (MPS) District headed back to school Tuesday morning, Sept. 6. 

At The Academy of Accelerated Learning, teachers and local leaders rolled out the red carpet to welcome them back. With cow bells and pom poms, they brought the excitement ahead of the first bell of the year. 

For the start of school, masks were optional for all MPS students. That's based on the CDC's data. The district will continue to monitor the data, and the mask policy will be changed when necessary. 

Superintendent Dr. Keith Posley said it's an improvement over the last couple of years. 

"We have learned so much about the pandemic and things we can do to stay safe, and I think we know we can keep school doors open," said Dr. Posley. 

Governor Evers was among local leaders at the kick off event. After classes were back in session, he announced his K-12 education plan in the library. 

"This is approximately a $2 billion investment in our kids' education and futures. With a projected $5 billion surplus we can make these meaningful investments in our kids and schools without having to raise property taxes," said Gov. Evers. 

That $2 billion dollars would come from the state's surplus. 

The governors proposal would only matter if he is re-elected. 

In it, he says $10 million dollars would be spent annual to improve reading and literacy, $5 million would go towards financial literacy for children, and 240 million would fun additional mental health aid. The Governor also plans to spend 75 million to meet staffing needs in schools. 

Tim Michels responded to Evers education plan announcement with this announcement: 

“While it is nice Governor Evers is again following my lead in focusing on literacy, his plan for education is the same as it always is. More money and more bureaucracy. The tired, old Evers approach has not worked. He’s spent his career in education and our schools keep getting worse, especially MPS. I will get Wisconsin headed in the right direction. I will empower parents with greater access to information and more options for their kids. The decades of decline at MPS and elsewhere will end. All schools will be better after just four years. Evers has failed for four decades. His time is up.”

Below is the full plan as outlined by the Evers administration: 

  • Improve reading and literacy outcomes
    • Gov. Evers has advocated for years to increase state-level support for our kids and our schools to improve reading outcomes and staff support for our kids.
    • Improving academic outcomes by investing in reading and literacy, providing a new literacy-focused categorical aid of $10 million each year to fund literacy-related programming for our kids.
    • This work would focus on implementing evidence-based reading instructional practices with special attention to establishing systems and structures for sustainability. There would also be a focus on improving reading-specific transitions from 4K to 5K to first grade to ensure a strong reading foundation for each Wisconsin kid.
  • Expand access to mental health services and school nutrition
    • “Get Kids Ahead” Permanent Aid
      • According to the Office of Children’s Mental Health (OCMH), the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the mental health challenges while research shows that improving student mental health also improves student health and learning, attendance, and engagement, while reducing bullying, risky behaviors, violence, involvement in the juvenile justice system, and substance use. OCMH recommends consistent and ongoing student mental health funding to address these needs.
      • Gov. Evers has invested $30 million in federal pandemic relief funds into his “Get Kids Ahead” initiative to expand access to school-based mental health services for kids. Every public school district was eligible to opt in to receive these funds, each receiving a minimum of $20,000 with the remaining allocation distributed on a per pupil basis.
      • Gov. Evers’ and Superintendent Underly’s proposal continues the governor’s commitment to student mental health and wellness by investing more than $240 million through a permanent Get Kids Ahead student mental health categorical aid and streamlining funding so that every school and student has access to these resources.
      • Through this proposal, every district will get enough funding to have at least one full-time staff member focused on mental health services, with additional funding based on student enrollment. Overall, this will provide a $100,000 base for all local education agencies, or $100 per pupil.
      • This proposal also distributes funding for evidence-based practices on a reimbursement model, rather than a grant model, streamlining funding so every school and every student can access these resources.
    • Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids
      • Through the federal coronavirus relief bills passed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government started universal reimbursement for all school meals, but these programs have now ended. About 78 million lunches were served during the 2021-22 school year to Wisconsin children, free of charge.
      • Gov. Evers and Superintendent Underly’s proposal would provide free meals to all students who qualify for free and reduced meals, as well as significantly decrease the cost for full-priced students. This would help ensure kids aren’t hungry when they’re trying to learn, and they get the nutrition they need—regardless of their family income.
      • The plan expands access to affordable school meals for Wisconsin students by creating a state-funded program to reimburse districts for breakfast, milk, snack, and lunch expenses for students.
  • Invest in financial literacy and out-of-school programming
    • “Do the Math” Initiative
      • Financial literacy is something every Wisconsinite needs to be successful—from household budgeting and understanding consumer financing to insurance decisions and retirement planning. Strong financial literacy curriculum will provide a strong foundation for students’ financial futures.
      • Gov. Evers and Superintendent Underly’s proposal creates a $5 million “Do the Math” initiative administered by the DPI to provide districts the resources to start or improve financial literacy curriculum and prepare students for financial success.
      • The department will work with CESAs to develop a regional support network that includes professional development for educators and a model curriculum/scope and sequence for districts to implement.
    • Out-of-School programming for kids
      • The pandemic underscored and exacerbated the need to invest in programming for kids both in and out of the classroom.
      • Last year, Gov Evers announced around $50 million in Beyond the Classroom grants to over 100 eligible nonprofits providing virtual and in-person programming for school-aged children to help increase enrollment capacity, provide additional learning opportunities, or increase mental health support for school-age children during the 2021-22 school year and summer months of 2021 and 2022.
      • Gov. Evers and Superintendent Underly’s proposal invests $20 million in an Out-of-School Grant program that increases access to community- and school-based before and after-school programming, modeled after DPI’s ESSER III program.
  • Help address staff shortages to keep class sizes small
    • The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated challenges schools were already facing, including ongoing staff shortages, requiring both short- and long-term solutions to address this issue head-on.
    • Gov. Evers’ recently announced $75 million investment was designed to help meet staffing needs in order to help address the teacher shortage and keep classrooms small while addressing rising costs for school supplies due to national inflation, and other needs.
    • Gov. Evers and Superintendent Underly’s proposal provides another tool for districts to address this issue, allowing any school district to hire retired teachers and staff by changing the law regarding rehiring retirees to help districts fill open positions with experienced staff.
  • Increase per pupil and special education aids
    • Increasing state support for schools through per pupil aid
      • Last year, Republicans in the Legislature rewrote Gov. Evers’ education budget to essentially freeze local district spending by not adjusting revenue limits and later rejected a special session called by the governor to increase investments in K-12 education at a time when our kids and our schools needed help most.
      • Gov. Evers has worked to address this through federal pandemic relief funds, including more than $110 million in CARES Act funds allocated by Gov. Evers last fall to help school districts hire educators and staff, provide more after-school programming, or buy art supplies and computers, as well as another $75 million in ARPA funds Gov. Evers announced last week to help meet staffing needs to keep classroom sizes small, address rising costs due to national inflation, provide direct classroom support.
      • Gov. Evers and Superintendent Underly’s plan increases spending authority for districts while holding property taxes stable by providing additional state support for schools, smoothing the fiscal cliff created by the Legislature by using one-time federal dollars for operating costs. This includes:
        • Revenue limit increases of $350 per pupil in 2022-23 and an additional $650 per pupil in 2023-24, along with a roughly $800 million state investment to hold the line on property taxes.
        • Per pupil aid increases of $24 per pupil in 2022-23 and an additional $45 in 2023-24 (matching percentages of increase to the revenue limit growth), resulting in a more than $60 million in estimated investment.
    • Increasing state support for schools through special education aid
      • Gov. Evers and Superintendent Underly’s plan will ensure our schools have the resources they need to ensure every kid can succeed by investing $750 million over the biennium to increase special education aid.
      • This would increase the reimbursement rate for special education from roughly 30 percent to 45 percent in the first year of the biennium and to 60 percent in the second year of the biennium, with a goal of achieving 90 percent reimbursement by the 2026-27 school year.

Along with other state agencies, Superintendent Underly will submit her full 2023-25 agency budget request and additional investments for the Department of Public Instruction later this month. Gov. Evers will consider agency budget requests, including the Department of Public Instruction’s, as part of the 2023-25 biennial budget process. The governor’s executive budget is released in February or March in odd-numbered years when the governor delivers the biennial budget message.

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND ON GOV. EVERS’ K-12 EDUCATION INVESTMENTS

After years of Republican disinvestments in education, Gov. Evers got to work to make historic investments in education at every level by investing in our public schools and in special education, school mental health, sparsity aid, and school transportation costs.

The 2019-21 budget the governor signed included a long-overdue increase in special education funding—the largest ever—and the biggest increase in general school aids since the 2005-07 biennium. This budget also provided the largest revenue limit adjustment for all school districts in a decade. And through his partial vetoes, the governor secured nearly $100 million more in per pupil aid for our schools, bringing per pupil aid to its highest level ever at $742 per pupil.

In the 2021-23 budget signed by the governor, Republicans finally joined the governor in restoring two-thirds funding for public schools for the first time in two decades, hitting that mark by the end of the biennium. The budget also provided roughly $685 million in additional net general and categorical school aids, boosted special education reimbursement rates, and invested $19 million more for school mental health services. Last year, after Republicans in the Legislature rewrote Gov. Evers’ education budget to essentially freeze local district spending by not adjusting revenue limits and later rejected a special session called by the governor to increase investments in K-12 education, Gov. Evers directed an additional $110 million investment using CARES Act funds to provide an additional $133.72 in per pupil aid for every Wisconsin school district.

Over both biennia, Gov. Evers has ensured more than $250 million dollars, resulting in more than $300 per pupil, was allocated across the state to permit districts to increase their investments in students, staff and safety at a critical juncture. In the 2019-21 budget, Gov. Evers used his partial veto authority to increase per pupil aid by $88 per kid to its highest level ever at $742 per pupil, and during the second biennium of his administration, Gov. Evers deployed federal pandemic response funds to make up for the Legislature freezing local district spending, allocating more than $212 per pupil to districts throughout the state. A full list of increases by school district under Gov. Evers is available here.

Gov. Evers has consistently and repeatedly urged the Legislature to make meaningful, ongoing investments into K-12 education during his time as governor. Gov. Evers called a special session of the Wisconsin State Legislature in each budget biennium (2019-21 and 2021-23), respectively, to use readily available state resources to invest in school-based mental health services, increased per pupil and special education aids, and sparsity aid for rural school districts, while working to hold the line on property taxes. Republicans in the Legislature have rejected every education-related special session called by Gov. Evers.

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