Governor Evers announces $90 million investment in K-12 public education in the state of Wisconsin The Badger Herald
Governor Tony Evers announced a $90 million investment in public schools on August 30, according to a Press release of the Governor’s Office.
According to the press release, these funds come from Wisconsin’s allocation of federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act. The funds are intended to address staffing issues, provide increased classroom support and expand mental health services in public schools. The money will be split among school districts on a per student basis and spread over multiple school years.
Of the $90 million, $15 million will go directly to increasing mental health services through Evers’ “Get Kids Ahead” program, while $75 million will be used to expand the teaching staff and reduce the number of students in classes, according to the Liberation press.
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This funding allocation comes after a tumultuous time for teachers in Wisconsin, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced many teachers to take safety measures into their own hands amid longer hours and a culture war. , according to Wisconsin Public Radio. Additionally, according to a Wisconsin Policy Forum report, the number of education graduate students dropped drastically in 2021.
These difficulties have led many students, including Jack Kotz, a senior at the University of Wisconsin, to rethink their future career plans.
Kotz planned to become a history or Spanish teacher after graduating, but said he is now re-evaluating that plan because of the way teachers are treated in Wisconsin. Kotz also noticed differences in the way his mother, a teacher from Wisconsin, was treated after Law 10 passed in Wisconsin.
Bill 10 was passed by former Governor Scott Walker just over a decade ago and resulted in a limited ability for public sector employees, excluding firefighters and police officers, to bargain collectively. Additionally, he cut benefits such as pensions and health care for all public employees, including firefighters and police officers, according to Spectrum News 1.
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According to Wisconsin Public Radio, Act 10 caused lasting problems for teachers that can still be seen today, especially in a post-COVID-19 society and resulted in fewer teachers and more staffing issues. .
Kotz said he thinks Evers’ new investments will help, but they may not solve the root of those problems.
“It looks like the money will treat some of the symptoms rather than getting to the root cause,” Kotz said. “That’s not to say it’s not useful, but I think it’s one of the main reasons [for staffing issues] it’s the brain drain – all the teachers were leaving after Act 10, and I think the root of that is certainly a lack of workers’ rights and strong public teachers’ unions.
According to the press release, the funding is aimed at bringing teachers back to schools after data showed public sector workers left their industries in 2021 at the highest rate in two decades.
Former UW School of Education Dean Emeritus Julie Underwood spoke about what the $90 million will likely accomplish in public schools.
Underwood said the $90 million given to schools over an extended period will encourage schools to hire much-needed teaching staff, unlike the one-time funds schools have received in the past. One-time funds allow schools to contract substitute teachers or other temporary staff, but not the teaching professionals and licensed psychologists that schools need, according to Underwood.
“Elongation [the funding] over a few years will encourage school districts to spend the money on licensed personnel like teachers and school psychologists and counselors,” Underwood said. “These are the kinds of staff that are really urgently needed in school districts, not just in the state of Wisconsin, but across the United States.”
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Underwood also spoke about the importance of money set aside for mental health services in public schools, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Underwood, one in five school-age children has a mental health problem, and many of those students rely on their schools for help. But schools are often not equipped to handle these issues, so these funds will help, she said.
“Provide additional access so that [the students] can get better treatment and getting advice more frequently or sooner is badly needed, especially these days right at the end of the COVID pandemic,” Underwood said.
Underwood also said that while the $90 million investment is a good step, she thinks an even bigger investment is Evers’ new proposal to give state schools $2 billion in the budget. 2023-2025.
According to a press release from the Governor’s Office, the proposed $2 billion would be used to help public schools improve literacy outcomes, increase assistance for special education, and expand access to mental health and nutrition services, among others.