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Evers pushes new school funding plan as more consistent funding to improve mental health and literacy outcomes

Governor Tony Evers visits Rhinelander High School Thursday as he pushes to use state surplus for school funding.
Katie Thoresen
Governor Tony Evers visits Rhinelander High School Thursday as he pushes to use state surplus for school funding.

Governor Tony Evers is pushing for more school funding as he visits districts around the state during the first few days of classes.

Evers stopped at Rhinelander High School Thursday.

Earlier this week, Evers announced a $2 billion school funding plan.

It would draw money from the state surplus rather than increase property taxes.

“As compared to other states, frankly the money we put into schools is growing at a much slower rate than the rest of the country,” said Evers.

Evers said it school funding was worse during previous administrations when he was state superintendent.

According to the Wisconsin Policy Forum ranks 25th of the 50 states when it comes to per pupil spending. That’s down from 11th in 2002.

In the Governor’s $2 billion proposal for schools, a large focus is on improving mental health services and school nutrition.

“Our schools have been asked to do more and more with less and less. When it came to the pandemic, I think we have to put that into context. It was a pandemic, a once in a lifetime, once in a century kind of event and our schools and our school boards handled it wonderfully well for their local communities. I think it’s time that we need to step up as a state and give our school district the resources so that they can address mental health and other needs that have come out of that pandemic,” said State Superintendent Jilly Underly who joined Evers in his visit to Rhinelander High School.

While the Republican legislature has largely turned down Evers state budget proposal that include increases to school funding, Evers has been using federal pandemic relief funding to aid schools.

Recently, he announced $90 million for districts to use for mental health and general funds.

District leaders WXPR has spoken with in the past say every bit of funding helps, but what they really need is consistent funding.

Evers believes his proposed funding plan would help with that.

“Two billion dollars is a lot of money. It’s something that can be consistently done every year,” said Evers. “For example, out of that $2 billion we have proposed a $250 million categorical aid for mental health issues instead of ‘here’s a pot. Here’s a pot.’ We’re saying every year there will be money available for behavioral and mental health issues. What we’re trying to do is take that first step towards getting consistent funding for our schools.”

The $2 billion school funding proposal would still need the Republican Legislatures approval and would be dependent on Evers reelection.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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