Tuesday, the first-term governor called for spending a sizable portion of the $5 billion budget surplus in K-12 schools.

On Tuesday, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers called for spending nearly $2 billion more on public K-12 schools — a plan designed to allow school spending to increase without resulting in higher property taxes.

Even then, it would remain up to the Republican-controlled Legislature, which has rejected much of what the governor has proposed in his previous two budgets, to decide whether to enact it.

“We have to do this if we finally want to make a difference for kids,” Evers, a former teacher, administrator and state superintendent for schools, said at a news conference. “We have to do this… This is an opportunity of a lifetime.”

Under Evers’ watch, Wisconsin public schools have risen from #18 to #8 in the national rankings. The governor called that “one of his proudest first-term accomplishments,” in our first one-on-one conversation with him, just before the August primary.

The governor will formally introduce the funding plan, which relies on tapping part of a projected $5 billion state budget surplus, next year if he wins reelection in November.

According to the Associated Press, the largest part of Evers’ plan would provide $800 million in additional school aid to hold down property tax increases while allowing schools to increase revenue limits by $350 per student next school year and $650 in the 2023-2024 school year. Revenue limits are the maximum amounts schools can raise from state aid and property taxes combined, although there are exceptions. School districts frequently turn to voters to ask for permission to exceed state-mandated revenue limits so they can increase spending.

Other parts of the plan include:

  • Adding one full-time staff member focused on mental health services in every school district
  • Adding literacy-related programming, with an emphasis on 4- and 5-year-old students who are just learning to read
  • Reimbursing districts who fund meals (breakfast, milk, snack, and lunch) for students who qualify