Wis. Schools Face Deep Cuts Under Walker’s Budget

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker is plowing ahead with his full plan for balancing Wisconsin’s budget, proposing massive cuts to public schools even as he faces a stalemate over his proposal to strip public workers of collective bargaining rights.

With Senate Democrats still missing, Walker presented the second part of his two-year spending plan to the Legislature on Tuesday. It relies on getting concessions from government employees to help pay for about $1 billion cuts in aid to schools, counties and cities while avoiding any tax or fee increases, furloughs or widespread layoffs as lawmakers grapple with a projected $3.6 billion shortfall.

Jamie Domini, a project coordinator at Badger Rock Middle School in Madison, said Walker’s proposal — which includes an 8 percent cut in aid to schools amounting to about $834 million — would “completely gut the public education system in Wisconsin.”

“It’s just so frustrating,” Domini said.

Walker, whose cost-cutting ideas have stirred a national debate over public-sector unions, said it was time for government to be “leaner and cleaner.”

“This is a reform budget,” Walker told lawmakers inside the Assembly chamber as protesters on the floor below screamed, banged on drums and blew horns. “It is about getting Wisconsin working again, and to make that happen, we need a balanced budget that works — and an environment where the private sector can create 250,000 jobs over the next four years.”

Walker says eliminating most collective bargaining rights for public-sector workers would give state agencies, local governments and school districts flexibility to react quickly to the cuts. But his plan to do that is in limbo after Senate Democrats fled the state to prevent a vote. The proposal has drawn thousands of protesters to the Capitol over the last three weeks.

Although he isn’t calling for immediate layoffs, Walker’s budget would put tremendous pressure on schools and local governments, which would be asked to shoulder huge cuts without raising property taxes to make up the difference. Also, some state workers may be forced out of their jobs under his consolidation of juvenile prisons and other cost-saving moves.

“It feels like we’re announcing a going out of business sale,” state Rep. Cory Mason, a Democrat from Racine who criticized Walker for proposing cuts to education when trying to rebound from the recession. Assembly Democrats refused to stand and greet the governor.

Walker’s budget places “the entire burden of Wisconsin’s budget shortfall on our children, our most vulnerable citizens in need of health care and long-term care, and our dedicated public employees,” said Robert Kraig, director of the consumer advocacy group Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

The governor also proposed requiring school districts to reduce their property tax authority by an average of $550 per pupil — a move that makes it more difficult for schools to make up the lost money.

Kelly McMahon, who teaches kindergarten in Milwaukee, said her school was already so underfunded that she spent $3,000 of her own money this year on supplies such as books, construction paper and paint.

“I’m terrified that I’d have even more coming out of my own pocket (if the budget passes) because the supplies aren’t going to be there,” said McMahon, 32. “This would be extremely devastating to our schools.”

Local leaders also expressed concerns about how they would deal with cuts. Cities would get nearly $60 million less in aid, an 8.8 percent cut, under Walker’s plan, while counties would lose more than $36 million, a 24 percent reduction. They would not be allowed to increase property taxes except to account for new construction.

“There aren’t enough paper clips to save you a million dollars,” said Racine Mayor John Dickert. “We’ve trimmed out all the fat.”

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat Walker defeated in the governor’s race, said the cuts would put libraries, public health care services and others at risk.

Walker also proposed a $500 million cut in Medicaid spending, which would be achieved through a number of changes that include increasing co-pays and deductibles and requiring participants in SeniorCare to be also be enrolled in Medicare Part D. Overall state spending on the program would increase by $1.2 billion, largely to replace reduced federal money.

Walker asked for $82 million in tax cuts, including an expanded exclusion for capital gains realized on investments made in Wisconsin-based businesses. The Legislature previously approved more than $117 million in Walker-backed tax cuts that take effect later this year.

Walker targeted many law changes passed by Democrats in recent years, including a provision awarding prisoners time off their sentences for good behavior. Instead, Walker would reinstitute a truth-in-sentencing law that he sponsored while a member of the Assembly.

Over the next several months, the Republican-controlled Legislature will review Walker’s budget and offer revisions, with the expectation that lawmakers would vote by early summer.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • shirley

    Well cutting school budgets, laying off educated and experienced teachers,breaking negotiating with any of them,should get the republicans in office in 2012!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Big Media Bias

      In Wisconsin, the Republicans running for House, Senate and Governor all ran on the platform to reform and cut every expenditure, not just education, to meet the WI constitutional requirement of a balanced budget. Something the Democrats intentionally failed to do. Educational cuts were specifically listed and debated by each candidate. The Republicans won decisively in all three race categories, November 2nd 2010. Your point is moot.

  • Vocallocal

    Mn has twice the budget deficit that Wisconsin has, yet Mn legislators have failed to address the deficit in a meaningful way. So far this year Mn legislators have voted on Sprinker systems for privae residences and have looked at regulating domestic animal breeding – which would require additional funding, thereby increasing Mn Debt.

    Last year Gov. Pawlenty took $1.8 Billion from Mn Public Schools and used it to cover the $1.8 Billion budgt for Public Safety. This caused schools in Mn to reduce staff and reduce the number of days children attend school. Once again education is the prime candidate for reduction by Mn legislators but Public Safety reform seems out of the question.

    Repealing the 4 in 10 DUI law would save Mn $1 Billion in debt. This is one reform of government that can be done to dramatically reduce the cost of government within Mn. As it stands now DUI’s are the number one cost associated to Mn court systems and Mn courts are running out of money because everyone is fighting their first DUI well aware of the negaitve impact a DUI will have on their record.

    Currently Mn citizens are protected under the new law passed last year requiring DUI offenders to be placed on the Ignition Interlock Device. This law effectively nullifies the need for the 4 in 10 DUI law as there is a second Felony DUI law in the books for Mn.

    Repealing the 4 in 10 DUI law would save Mn $1 billion and allow for less painful cuts to our future – our childrens education.

    There has been over 1,300 jobs removed from the Mn economy since January of 2011 – that’s just over 60 days. Despite what Mn economic gurus believe – they have been wrong three years in a row – jobs in Mn are not returning. Counting retail jobs that provide part-time work to Mn residents at minimum wage or just above minimum wage does not sustain government.

    Repeal the 4 in 10 DUI law makes sense all the way around and save $1 Billion from your taxes.

  • Little Tin God

    It’s apparent that the GOP quest is the dumbing down of America. We’re already way behind in math and science education and Walker want;’s to put us even further behind. I firmly believe that today’s “scientists and engineers” could not meet John F. Kennedy’s challenge presented in his May 25, 1961 speech to Congress.

    • pat

      We’ve been dumbed down and it only costs about 18,000 per student to get there. All the money in the world won’t make up for poor teaching practices. It wasn’t fair that the minority community looked bad compared to whites, so we dumbed everybody down to keep things fair. But in the meantime let’s give teachers and their retirements endless funding. How’s that working out?

      • Whatever

        Working in the private sector making $20,000 more per year for a lifetime doing a job requiring the same education more than makes up for the “huge” retirement teachers apparently get.

  • paab

    I can’t wait until we start to do these cuts in MN. I can hear the overfunded school teachers and administrators bawling down at the Capitol. We bailed you out before and now the entire state is in debt because of teachers pension funds. when the market went down we all suffered, funny how we had to bail you out, now the maret is back are you going to refund the taxpayers?

    • The Greatest, Not Greediest, Generation


      That is so much BS it isn’t even funny. Stop listening to Fox News and get your facts straight. There isn’t a thread of truth or fact in your post, just Tea Party hysteria.

      • steve

        Ppaab: You obviously didn’t pay attention in school and are now facing the problem of a lack of intelligence. Just because you didn’t value your education doesn’t mean others don’t value theirs. Since when did we bail out the teachers? The state of MN is currently using education dollars to help fund other programs, and the state is taking longer to pay back the money to the education system than it promised. Get you facts straight, and go back to school to learn proper grammar while you’re at it!

      • helper


        You won’t get across to these people so don’t even try. They are brainwashed. They can only handle a few points of information at a time. You have to talk real slow to them for them to understand anything. They just are not that smart, thus do not understand the finer points of politics.

        Don’t worry, lets just sit back and watch Wisconsin ‘fix’ its budget on the back of people. Wait until these so called republicans realize how it affects them then they will turn democrat just in time for 2012.

      • steve

        EXACTLY!! They will also be the first ones to complain when their home values plummet in conjunction with their schools.

  • Vocallocal

    Global economy requires education or Mn will end up like China where Mn is paid by private businesses for their workers who are incarcerated. It’s not far fetched, it happens in Oregon and Washington already.

  • it's the administrators stupid!!!!

    Watch the schools districts lay off teachers and leave administration alone!!!! Lay off one administrator and you can keep from 2 to 4 teachers. SO, WHO IS REALLY OVERPAID????

  • sorry

    the system is so bloated, one overpaid superendendent at about $250,000 per year could oversee several districts not just one. the same with the endless number of principals and vice-principals.

  • DJ

    Kids don’t vote so their voices aren’t heard in our current money driven political system. We are all failing our children – both major political parties and all of their respective “support” groups.

    So don’t be surprised that one day in the future your kids stick you in a nursing home rather than letting you come and live with them. Afterall, we’ve all taught them that sort of behavior by our actions today.

  • fred

    maybe this heartless pig should cut his wage and see how he likes getting cut, and don’t tell me he is!!!!!!!!!!

  • whatever

    He’s def not getting reelected in ’12. I don’t live in Wis so I don;t give a damn what happens over there but even I can see that he is rubbing too many people the wrong way.

    • ME

      You know he got elected doing by campaigning to do exactly what he’s doing. Just because there’s a lot of old hippies misleading young ignorant youths to protest in Madison doesn’t mean he’s not going to get reelected. The people upset about this are the people who didn’t vote for him in the first place. Besides, when budget is balanced and protesters go away, nobody is going to care that any of this happened.

      • Me

        He BARELY got elected, and I know many who did vote for him, who suffer from “Buyers Remorse”. Their also siging the recall….

  • jon

    Just close all the schools and get it over with. Have kids be home schooled by their unemployed parents. All of the jobs are getting shipped over seas and the ones that aren’t are being overrun by illegals anyway.

  • me

    You know he got elected by campaigning to do exactly what he’s doing. Just because there’s a lot of old hippies misleading young ignorant youths to protest in Madison doesn’t mean he’s not going to get reelected. The people upset about this are the people who didn’t vote for him in the first place. Besides, when budget is balanced and protesters go away, nobody is going to care that any of this happened.

  • vocallocal

    That is the sad truth – after this has reached a solution the people will shchlep back to their homes rather than persisting as the Egyptians did…. the United States is great at face value – headline news marches but once a decree has been made there is nothing done to overturn it other than quiet whispers and re-electing the very same people who voted against their wants…. American’s the weak

  • TLC

    In Wisconsin, voters can recall their state elected officials after
    they have been in office for a year. That means that Gov. Walker
    cannot be recalled until 2012, but eight of the GOP Senators who have
    pushed for passage of Walker’s plan are eligible for recall NOW — and
    the state Democrats have taken steps to begin the recall process.

    WI — this is your chance!!! Get out and get it done!

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