Republican Leaders' State Budget Plan Would Force Immediate, Massive School Cuts, Johnson Says
The budget process
In February 2005, Governor Doyle introduced his 2005-07
state budget proposal, which increased state school aid by $850
On June 10, the Joint Finance Committee, controlled by
Republican legislative leaders, adopted a budget that reduces
the governor's school aid package by about $400 million.
The State Assembly will take up the budget the week of
June 21, and Senate action will follow.
Once both houses have agreed on a single version of the
budget (which is scheduled to happen by July 1 but often runs
later), it is sent back to Governor Doyle, who can sign it or
veto it in part or whole.
School districts throughout the state would have to
immediately cut millions of dollars from their 2005-06 budgets if the
state budget approved Friday (June 10, 2005) by the Joint Finance Committee
became law, WEAC President Stan Johnson said.
The budget plan approved by the legislative Republican
leadership that controls the Joint Finance Committee falls nearly $400
million short of what Governor Doyle proposed in education funding for
the next two years.
"It would force communities to either dramatically
raise taxes or severely harm kids and undermine Wisconsins great
schools," Johnson said.
School districts have set local budgets under current
revenue cap law, which allows an increase of $248 per pupil in 2005-06
and $252 in 2006-07. The Republican plan approved early Friday by the
Joint Finance Committee allows increases of only $120 per pupil for
2005-06 and $100 in 2006-07.
"That would force immediate and massive cuts
as children come back in September to schools with fewer teachers and
support staff, larger class sizes, and far fewer curriculum opportunities,"
Milwaukee Public Schools alone would have to cut $40
million, which Superintendent William Andrekopoulos said is the equivalent
of laying off 499 teachers. Other examples of school cuts that would
result from the Republican budget plan, according to Governor Jim Doyle's
office, are: $10 million in Madison, $8.5 million in Kenosha, $8.5 million
in Racine, $8.2 million in Green Bay, $5.9 million in Appleton, $5.3
million in Waukesha, $4.4 million in Eau Claire, $4.3 million in Janesville,
$4.2 million in Oshkosh, $4.1 million in Sheboygan, $3.5 million in
Wausau, $3.4 million in West Allis, $3.1 million in Stevens Point, and
$3 million in La Crosse. The governor's office has posted a list
(pdf file) of cuts for every school district under the Republican
Doyle said the Republican leaders' plan is "a
cruel hoax on schools and property taxpayers." He said he would
"use every power at my disposal to make sure that we get a budget
that is fair to both property taxpayers and our schools."
The budget the governor proposed in February calls
for an additional $850 million investment so that the state lives up
to its promise to fully fund two-thirds of the cost of public education.
Doyle said the Republican leaders' proposal "would
force school districts to choose between a massive property tax increase
or laying off thousands of teachers, raising class sizes, and cutting
programs from music to athletics."
"Not only will the Republican budget cause the largest education
cut in decades, but it also sets taxpayers up for a huge property tax
increase. Republicans know there is no way schools can handle this kind
of cut, and the only option will be a massive increase in property taxes."
Doyle cannot use his veto power to add funding to any package approved
by the Legislature. However, he said, "If in the end, I have to
veto the whole budget in order to make sure we protect property taxpayers,
and we protect education in this state, then that's what I'm going to
Sen. Robert Jauch called the Republican leaders' plan "an inexcusable
assault on children" that will result in a $110 million cut for
Wisconsin schools in the next two months alone.
The Republican plan is as indefensible as it is horrific, and
it will certainly result in chaos for school budgets in northern Wisconsin
and throughout the state, he said.
The Republican leaders' plan also slashes Doyle's proposed increase
in the highly successful SAGE class-size reduction program - from $42.9
million to $6.1 million. SAGE (Student Achievement Guarantee in Education)
reduces class sizes in kindergarten through 3rd grade in classes that
largely serve students from low-income households, but the Joint Finance
Committee budget would let schools opt out of SAGE in grades 2 and 3.
"Governor Doyle proposed a fiscally responsible budget and made
education his first priority," Johnson said. "The Republican
legislative leaders are making education a very low priority and potentially
sacrificing the future of our kids in the process."
Johnson again urged WEAC members to join in the WEAC Lobby Day in Madison
June 16. The Assembly will vote on the budget the week of June 21, and
Senate action will follow.
"The timing is critical," Johnson said. "Now that the
budget is out of the hands of Republican legislative leaders and in
the hands of the full Legislature, we hope common sense and fairness
"It is essential that WEAC members communicate with legislators
to impress upon them how important great schools are to the future of
our children and to the economy of our state.
"If you can't make it to Lobby Day on June 16, please use the
to tell your legislators that our great schools and the children of
Wisconsin can no longer absorb these budget cuts, and that every kid
deserves a great school."
Posted June 10, 2005