EAU CLAIRE (WQOW) - Across the Badger State on Monday, educators, parents and school district officials took part in the Wisconsin Public Education Network's "Statewide Day of Action." The event is a push for lawmakers to commit to restoring Gov. Evers' proposed education budget.
One of those calls for action took place in Eau Claire.
"This day is a direct result of the recent votes in the state's Committee on Finance to cut 90% of proposed school funding in the governor's budget," said Chris Hambuch-Boyle with the Wisconsin Public Education Network (WPEN). "As a retired educator and former school board member, I refuse to make this day political, but focus instead on our children; our most precious gift on earth."
For the Eau Claire Area School District, that focus comes in the form of over 11,000 students and nearly 1,500 staff members; making ECASD the eighth largest district in Wisconsin.
"These ESSER funds are one-time dollars to help support our students and families who have endured significant emotional trauma, mental health concerns, and learning loss," said ECASD Superintendent Michael Johnson. "We desperately need our legislators to collaborate; recognizing that an ongoing investment in our students at such a critical time in their lives will greatly benefit our community and state for many, many years."
Those investments are categorized into three main prioritizations, proposed by the network. The first is an increase in revenue limits.
"Public schools are being tasked with doing more and more, with less and less," said ECASD alumni and WPEN Digital Organizer, Christian Phelps. "A budget that does not close the gaps in our public schools is a commitment to making those gaps wider. And we cannot accept that."
WPEN's second priority is additional school aids.
"A student of mine that I should be working with was in a classroom when I was outside," said ECASD alumni and former ECASD educator, True Vue. "His data showed that his grades went down. I should be in the classroom with that child and not outside. But because the school didn't have enough funding, we had to use our resources differently."
The final priority is a special education reimbursement rate increase to at least 50%.
"When my premature twins started in preschool here, they were reimbursed at the 60% rate at the state level," said Beth Ivankovic, a mother with the ECASD Special Education PTA. "It's now somewhere between 25 and 30 percent. These are baseline, crucial special education services that our kids need to go out into this world and be great community members, to find jobs."
With the state Assembly and Senate returning to the floor in Madison next week, public school advocates have one message.
"Don't play politics with kids, invest the surplus in their future," Phelps said. "We can afford to close the gaps, and we can't afford not to."