In a letter to Republican leaders of the Wisconsin Legislature, Democratic U.S. Reps. Gwen Moore, Ron Kind and Mark Pocan asked state lawmakers to revisit their lean budget proposal for public schools. Last week the Department of Education warned state officials that the GOP budget proposal could result in the loss of $1.5 billion in federal funds because it fails to maintain a sufficient state investment in education.
“Republicans in the state legislature are already poised to leave behind billions of federal dollars available to Wisconsin for Medicaid expansion,” Moore, Kind and Pocan wrote. “We urge you not to make the same mistake again. That is why we implore you revisit the proposed education budget and guarantee Wisconsin receives the federal funding it needs to ensure that every student has an opportunity to succeed.”
The Republican budget proposal, which commits less than one-tenth of the money for schools that Gov. Tony Evers asked for in his budget proposal, relies heavily on federal COVID relief money to fund general programs.
Democrats on the Legislature’s budget committee pointed out that the federal relief funds represent a one-time infusion of cash, specifically to cover expenses related to the pandemic.
But Republicans called their education budget a “historic investment” in schools in press releases on Friday, counting the federal money as part of that investment on the same day the Department of Education warned that the state could lose its federal COVID relief funding.
“By failing to set aside adequate funding for our schools, you are unnecessarily jeopardizing billions in federal relief available to Wisconsin,” the members of Congress wrote in their letter, addressed to Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.
“Losing federal COVID relief funding will undoubtedly hurt school districts across rural, urban, and suburban areas as they are forced to absorb additional costs created by the pandemic,” the lawmakers added.
“This past year has been hard on Wisconsin families,” they concluded, “let’s not make the next two years harder than they need to be. Thank you for your consideration of our request.”