Gov. Scott Walker unveiled his two-year state budget plan in a speech on Tuesday night. Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association; Betsy Kippers, Racine teacher and president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council; and David Fladeboe, Americans For Prosperity Wisconsin State Director released statements concerning what the budget entails.
Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association:
"Tonight Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker used his budget address to launch his presidential campaign, taking aim at the children and students of Wisconsin.
Walker wants to inflict massive cuts on one of the most highly acclaimed public university systems in the country, while promoting unlimited expansion of unaccountable, taxpayer-funded private voucher schools, and lowering teacher quality by gutting licensure requirements.
Walker also attacks local control by proposing a state board to authorize charter schools, when local school boards already have that ability. He proposes ending the Chapter 220 program, which was created to expand public school options for children of color in Milwaukee and tackle school segregation. Walker’s budget expands all private school options, yet he wants to end this choice for Milwaukee families.
Walker’s proposals should give the voters of this nation pause. We do not need a president who destroys a world-famous public university system while funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into unaccountable private religious schools.
This and other budget proposals demonstrate that Walker is not fit to be governor of our state, to say nothing of president of our nation."
Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee):
"After hearing Governor Walker give his address, one thing is certain: his silence on the $2 million budget deficit that Wisconsin is facing was loud and clear. The Governor spoke for 21 minutes and of the 2,371 words in his speech, he never said the word ‘deficit.’"
"Leadership is hard. Our best leaders admit when they are wrong or when things haven’t gone according to plan. Wisconsin Republicans spent money we didn’t have, based on predictions that haven’t been realized. Instead of admitting past mistakes, the Governor is walking Wisconsin down an unsustainable path of deep cuts and heavy borrowing."
"Hard work needs to be done within the legislature to prevent families from picking up the broken pieces of our leadership. I am ready to work to see that our State Budget puts Wisconsin back on track. My door is always open and I invite my Republican legislative colleagues to come to my office at 303 West, or call my office at 608-266-0645 to discuss ways to move Wisconsin towards a better future. If I don’t hear from you, expect a call or a knock at your door. We’ve got work to do."
Betsy Kippers, Racine teacher and president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council:
A state budget proposal that slams the door to opportunity on students is an insult to Wisconsin’s education legacy, said the president of Wisconsin’s largest union of educators.
"This budget is an insult to Wisconsin’s children and citizens," Kippers said. "This budget is a campaign ploy to further the governor’s presidential ambitions. He’s shutting the door on children and leaving them behind."
Kippers said among the most egregious components of the budget is unbridled expansion of the statewide, tax-funded private school voucher program, while students in neighborhood public schools – especially in rural areas – get the shaft.
"Under Governor Walker, Wisconsin has had some of the largest cuts in the nation to school funding, while at the same time giving $10,000 tax deductions to wealthy families who send their children to private schools. He has expanded the taxpayer-funded voucher school program even though public school students perform better. Governor Walker’s cherry-on-top this time around is a $300 million cut to UW campuses across the state and a big, fat blank check to the voucher lobbyists who fund his campaigns while holding public school revenue flat."
"Enough is enough," Kippers said. "Education cuts don’t heal."
"If our elected officials want to help children, they need to ensure that every child has a good public school to attend no matter where they live or what their family circumstances are," she said. "That is true opportunity."
"Educators and parents will be calling on their legislators to make significant changes to the budget, instead of blindly following the governor down this path to the end of neighborhood public schools as we know them," Kippers said.
David Fladeboe, Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin State Director:
"We applaud Governor Walker for standing with families and proposing state-wide uncapped school choice,"said David Fladeboe, Wisconsin State Director of Americans for Prosperity. "By cutting taxes once again, the Governor shows that he understands the budget is funded by the taxpayers not the government. However, our members are disappointed that the budget still plans to use public funds on the Milwaukee arena."
Bruno Behrend, The Heartland Institute senior fellow:
"Gov. Walker’s recent proposal to end Common Core’s ‘Smarter Balanced’ testing is an important first step in dismantling the Common Core apparatus. By freeing up districts from Common Core mandates, Walker is potentially saving districts millions of dollars in implementation costs.
"The next important step in dismantling Common Core is to ensure schools and teachers have the freedom to choose curriculum independent of a state’s or district’s chosen standards. Such a policy corrects the most negative aspect of Common Core, which is not the imposition of a standard, but the dictating of curriculum."
Michael Strigel, executive director of Gathering Waters:
Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts was alarmed by Governor Walker’s budget proposal to freeze land purchases through the Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program.
"A prosperous future for Wisconsin should include investments in clean water, in natural resources that support jobs, and in wild places for kids and families to fish, hunt, and explore close to home. The Stewardship Program contributes to a strong economy, healthy communities, and the high quality of life that makes Wisconsin a desirable place to live, work and play."
Wisconsin’s $12 billion outdoor recreation industry, including our $4 billion hunting and fishing industries, are directly supported by the Stewardship Program’s protection of our land resources. So is our state’s $20 billion forestry industry – through working forest conservation easements and land purchases. "The Stewardship Program costs each resident in Wisconsin less per year than a fishing license or a state park sticker," Strigel added. "The benefits to our state far outweigh the cost."
Examples of how a strong, well-funded Stewardship Program contributes to our economy and quality of life include:
Recent projects are directly bolstering Wisconsin’s economy, like the Brule St. Croix Legacy Forest, which partially supports more than 700 jobs and nearly $27 million in payroll income in forest-related businesses. Lack of available timber is a major concern in some areas of the state, as is fragmentation of forestland, and the Stewardship Program helps to ensure that large blocks of timber remain in sustainable production, keeping raw material available for mills.
The Stewardship Program helps to protect key segments of the Ice Age Trail, which was estimated in 2012 to attract 1,252,685 visitors annually, while supporting 1,481 full-time equivalent jobs in the tourism industry, and driving $113,961,357 in annual direct sales to statewide and local economies from Ice Age Trail visitors.
Lack of public access to land is a significant threat to our state’s sporting heritage, and Stewardship provides access for hunting and fishing across the state. Trout anglers alone produce an economic benefit to the Driftless Area in excess of $1.1 billion every year. Stream-bank easements, funded through Stewardship, provide the public access that helps to drive this activity.
Wisconsin’s land trust community looks forward to working with the legislature to reinstate Stewardship funding. The Assembly Republican agenda for this session supports Stewardship funding, stating that, "Not only is protecting our environment the right thing to do, it also vital to our economy. Tourism sustains roughly 185,000 jobs in Wisconsin, or 7.8% of total employment in our state. People flock to our state to enjoy our pristine waterways and hike our beautiful forests."