Committee approves $500 million more for schools

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MADISON, Wis. (AP/WMTV) -- The Republican-controlled Legislature's budget committee has approved increasing funding for Wisconsin's K-12 schools by $500 million over two years.

Democrats and Gov. Tony Evers said Thursday that is not enough. Evers proposed a $1.4 billion increase.

Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach said the cut is a slap in the face in a press conference before the vote.

"Our schools have suffered. School districts have had to spackle, patch, duck tape, put together a budget that they try to make as fair as they possibly can." Erpenbach said.

The committee voted 11-4 along party lines to approve the $500 million increase, which includes nearly $100 million more for special education. Evers wanted to spend six times that much.

Republican Rep. John Nygren, who is co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, said Gov. Evers' request was unrealistic.

"I think education leaders across the state had questions if it was realistic, and that is why we are taking the realistic growth approach," Nygren said.

"[Evers] put a lot of money into education, and we want to put significantly more into education also, but we have to balance it with other needs that are out there," Republican Senator Tom Tiffany said.

Republicans say this is the most the state can afford and it is their best offer. Evers says it is inadequate and he is optimistic he can work with Republicans to get more money.

In the last budget, schools received a $639 million increase. The battle over education funding is one of the central fights of the state budget, along with Medicaid expansion and transportation funding.