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Wisconsin state superintendent: Schools are ‘changed forever,’ need more money

Yellow School Bus in a District Lot Waiting to Depart for Students V
Indianapolis – Circa June 2019: Yellow School Bus in a District Lot Waiting to Depart for Students V jetcityimage/Getty Images

Wisconsin state superintendent: Schools are ‘changed forever,’ need more money

May 27, 04:00 PM May 27, 04:00 PM

Wisconsin’s state superintendent says schools across the state need more money than ever before.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jill Underly on Wednesday reacted to comments from Republicans at the state Capitol that there may not be any new money in the state for public schools.

“Our schools are changed forever,” Underly said. “While the federal government has made some investments, they are not nearly enough to make up the lost time, needed infrastructure, and all of the needs of our school children, and are limited to covering only certain expenses.”

Her plea comes as Wisconsin has received, or will receive, more than $2 billion federal stimulus money just for public schools.

Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, said on Tuesday that is more than enough money for schools across the state.

“I think we’re good for right now,” the Journal Sentinel quoted Kapenga as saying.

Republican lawmakers argued that schools didn’t have to spend as much over the past year. Pretty much every school closed last spring, and many of them have not fully reopened to all students.

Kapenga also said schools should be encouraged to find ways to save money, as opposed to simply looking to Madison for more.

His first suggestion: consolidate districts so there’s one school district for each of the state’s 72 counties.

“If we narrowed down to 72 districts in the state, think about the amount of overhead we could cut out and use, if we need it, for funding in the classroom, and then start getting our taxes down,” Kapenga said.

Underly said not sending schools more money could hurt their efforts to pay teachers more.

“Zero increases for local schools exacerbates the teacher recruitment and shortage crisis across the state as districts will struggle to even provide cost-of-living increases to staff for the next two years,” Underly said.

Lawmakers are expected to talk more about school funding at their budget session Thursday.

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