Evers calls special session to increase school funding, lower property taxes

(WMTV/Curt Lenz)
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Gov. Tony Evers is calling lawmakers back to the state capital for a special session with the goal of increasing educational funding across the state.

In a news conference Thursday morning, Evers laid out a three-pronged plan that he says will focus on students’ mental health, rural schools, and property tax relief, calling the plan “a no-brainer.”

“I've always said that what's best for our kids is what's best for our state, and every kid deserves access to high-quality, public education regardless of their age, identity, background, economic status, or zip code,” said Gov. Evers.

According to Evers, the plan would:

  • Dedicate $250 million to school-based special education and mental health services;
  • Provide $10 million in sparsity aid to rural school districts, and;
  • Reduce property taxes by $130 million through equalization aid.

See the full executive order here

Evers wants all lawmakers to convene next Tuesday, Feb. 11, at 1 p.m.

“I am grateful for the governor’s plan to provide additional resources for our schools,” State Superintendent Carolyn Standford Taylor said. “As I travel across the state, I continuously hear from our educators and parents, and I see the need for the state to provide more support, especially in the areas of special education and mental health resources in our schools.”

Evers also pointed out that the new proposal would fulfill a commitment for the state to pay at least two-thirds of K-12 school costs through aid. He added the 2/3 number was in line with the recommendations from a blue-ribbon commission formed by then-Governor Scott Walker and from a letter of priorities for the last legislative session that was back by every Republican assembly member.

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald responded to the Governor's plan in a series of tweets noting that the previous budget passed by the Republican Assembly increased funding to its highest level ever, including special education, mental health and rural funding.

"Every time the state has surplus revenue, Republicans look for ways to return that money to taxpayers. Democrats keep looking for ways to spend your money," he added. "It appears that the teachers' unions are the ones calling all the shots in the East Wing."

He capped off the thread by saying the GOP is aiming to use the surplus for a tax cut and he "doesn't see (the party) budging off that position."

"We don’t have to choose between investing in our kids and reducing property taxes—we can do both. My plan recommits to our promise of two-thirds state funding for our schools and will provide $130 million in property tax relief through equalization aid,” Gov. Evers continued.

According to numbers from the Governor’s Office, hundreds of thousands of voters in Wisconsin have backed plans to raise their own property taxes to support their local schools over the past nine years. Additionally, more than $2 billion in debt and revenue increases won approval in 2018 alone.

The tax cuts would come as the state moved to end school districts’ reliance on property taxes and referenda to raise taxes.

Read the original version of this article at www.nbc15.com.