Onalaska School District speaks out on state funding proposal - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Onalaska School District speaks out on state funding proposal

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State lawmakers worked into the early morning hours Wednesday, taking votes on a number of controversial proposals in the state budget.

One of the most hotly debated, a plan to fund the states public schools.

Among the major provisions, the rejection of the governor's proposed $127 million dollar cut to public schools.

Republicans who hold the majority on the budget writing committee voted to restore some of the cuts but will reduce that funding in order to expand the states private school voucher program.

Allowing students to use taxpayer dollars to attend private schools will cost public schools about $48 million over the next two years.

Fran Finco, superintendent of the Onalaska School District said the proposal is forcing the district to make some tough decisions.

"We'll have to cut $400,000 in staffing in order to run the district next year," Finco said. That means re-evaluating what positions are essential.

"Do we want an elementary counselor or do we want a school nurse? Do we want a social worker or do we want a high school counselor? Do we want reading help in kindergarten or do we want reading help in middle school and high school?" Finco continued.

Finco said while all roles are important, the district has to make the cuts somewhere.

He said students will pay the price.

"You don't get do-overs so if you have to cut programs and services, support, staff, whatever, when child is in the second grade and you bring the money back the next year or two they can't go back to second grade and redo," Finco said.

Democratic legislators also opposed the proposal.

"The package put forward last night was not a package that supports public education in this state. The package that was approved by the finance committee is one that supports corporations coming in to make profits off of voucher students," Sen. Jennifer Shilling said.

Shilling said over 90 percent of Wisconsin students attend public schools.

"The republicans are following the requests of the voucher proponents who are supporters of the governor. We put forward these massive tax breaks to corporations, which is taking money out of our schools all in a way to satisfy these special interest groups on the governors presidential campaign," Shilling said.

But republicans say its a good step for public education.

"The Joint Finance Committee added $200 million to the governor's budget public education funding and what that did was restore the governor's cut proposed and added another $100 per pupil spending on top of the base so that adds up to an additional $200 million for our public schools," Senator Howard Marklein (R- Spring Green) said.

But Finco has a message for lawmakers.

"We're expected to have kids college and career ready by the time they leave here. That's a fair task. That's a fair thing to ask us to do. Now give us the resources that we need and get out of our way," he said.

Finco's solution is to give districts a cost of living increase.

He said if Onalaska would receive the 1.62 percent increase, it would give them $560,000, enough money to offer staff a modest raise while maintaining current programs and services.

The full budget plan is expected to pass The Joint Finance Committee next week before it goes to the Senate and Assembly.

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