By Governor Tony Evers
I’ve spent most of my life working in education, and making sure Wisconsin schools are the best in the nation is one of the main reasons why I decided to run for office. Because nothing is more important than working with parents, teachers, and students to help every Wisconsinite achieve their dreams. During my first term, I worked with both parties to fund our schools by more than we have in the last 20 years. We’ve made historic strides in improving our education system. Our schools are now ranked in the top 10 in America — but we can, and should, be doing more for the next generation, and I will.
This isn’t a question about having the resources – Wisconsin has a $3.8 billion budget surplus – it’s about putting politics aside and doing the right thing for our kids. We already know what strategies work — that’s why my plan for education is centered around smaller class sizes for more personalized learning, increased investments in special education, expanded mental health counseling, and bold investments in technical education and job training. Billions in taxpayer money shouldn’t be sitting in the state’s coffers, it should be working for our kids and our parents.
Parents are our kids first and best teachers and the life skills they learn growing up – in and out of the classroom – are vital to a successful career in whatever field they choose. Our K-12 schools need the resources to support our kids’ success from day one. Unfortunately, our schools were starved for funding over the past decade, making it harder for them to provide the quality education we expect. A key piece of my plan includes lowering class sizes by hiring and retaining teachers and investing in high-quality after-school programs.
We also know that students learn in different ways. That doesn’t mean they should get left behind, it means we need to give them the tools they need to learn. I’m proud to say that I signed the largest increase in special education funding ever in my last budget, but that doesn’t make up for years of neglect under previous administrations. We’re just getting started in this area — and my plan for our surplus would increase funding for and incentivize school districts to build out quality special education programs.
Our state’s urban areas are huge drivers of our economy, but too often, our schools in those areas lag behind the rest of the state. The Urban Excellence Initiative I proposed earlier this year would expand summer school, enhance early childhood education, support community engagement to improve academic achievement, and support principals in the state’s five largest school districts. We’ve got to make sure when we provide funding for education, that no kid gets left behind.
Public education is all about preparing kids for a successful career. For some students, that means going to college, but that’s not always the best path for everyone. Wisconsin needs more skilled workers to grow our economy and fill job openings – supporting apprenticeships and technical colleges has to be a big part of our solution.
I believe parents and students should have the information they need to make the best decision about their future. I’m committed to expanding skills training opportunities and making more information about apprenticeships in high-demand fields available to everyone. As governor, I’ve already taken steps to do just that — we’ve invested nearly $60 million to help fill jobs across the state. But our technical college system lost 30% of its funding as a result of cuts from the previous administration, and I’ve proposed filling some of that gap by providing millions of aid to our technical college system.
There’s nothing more important than our kids’ education. As governor, I’ll do the right thing to improve school and teacher quality because a great public education system leads to a strong and thriving economy. A great public education system creates jobs and trains workers to fill those jobs. And a great public education system keeps people in Wisconsin and attracts more workers to our state. I will always do what’s right to make sure that Wisconsin’s public education system remains one of the best in the country.