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WUWM's Emily Files reports on education in southeastern Wisconsin.

As School Year Begins, Evers Says Education Funding 'Headed In Right Direction'

Emily Files
Milwaukee Parkside School kindergarten students walk down a red carpet set up for a first day of school celebration.

Students at Milwaukee Parkside School for the Arts in Bay View were welcomed with a red carpet and drumline Tuesday morning at Milwaukee Public Schools' back-to-school celebration. 

MPS’s approximately 76,000 students are back in classrooms this week. They might not know it, but there’s a new team of leaders making decisions that will affect them at the local and state level.

Keith Posley is entering his first full school year as permanent MPS superintendent. He’s answering to a school board with five new members.

“I am confident we will win in Milwaukee Public Schools,” Posley said at a first day of school press conference.

It's Carolyn Stanford Taylor’s first school year leading Wisconsin's education agency, the Department of Public Instruction. 

“We all — educators, parents, school, community — need to rally around our students and make sure that we are meeting them where they are,” Stanford Taylor said at the MPS event.

And it’s the first school year under Gov. Tony Evers’ first state budget, which was altered dramatically by Republican lawmakers. 

Credit Emily Files
Gov. Tony Evers speaks at an MPS first day of school press conference. MPS Superintendent Keith Posley and MTEA President Amy Mizialko are seated behind him.

“My job as governor is making sure schools have enough resources,” Evers said at the press conference. 

Evers, Stanford Taylor, Posley and the Milwaukee School Board have all said that educational equity is a top priority. That is, giving an extra boost to students with the most need. For example, Evers proposed additional funding for urban districts like MPS, which serve high proportions of poor students, English learners and children with disabilities.

“When kids come from impoverished backgrounds that means they need an extra lift,” Evers said. “So, I think the school funding formula needs to be driven by equity not equality.”

But many of Evers’ proposals that would have benefitted MPS, including an overhaul of the state funding formula and targeted aid for urban districts, did not make it into the budget he signed.

Credit Emily Files
A Milwaukee Parkside School student high-fives a giant apple at a back-to-school celebration on Sept. 3.

Evers, a Democrat, called for a $1.4 billion school funding increase, including a dramatic boost in special education aid. But the Republican-controlled Legislature countered with a more modest $570 million education package. Evers ultimately signed that spending plan into law, saying it was a good first step.

“I believe we’re headed in the right direction,” Evers said. “Do I believe that MPS or any of the other public schools in the state of Wisconsin have adequate resources? The answer is no. But I believe we’re headed in the right direction, we made some good opportunities this time around.”

The MPS board agrees that the district does not have adequate resources in the two-year state budget. So, the board is considering a voter referendum to collect more property tax funding. The details of how much it would cost and what the additional money would pay for are to be determined.

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Emily is an editor and project leader for WUWM.
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