The Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) held an Executive Session on Education on Thursday, May 27, 2021. This session included decisions related to public, K-12 education, the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB) and the University of Wisconsin System.

We invested $150.5 million in Education. This is a tremendous investment of state resources in addition to Federal funding that is already arriving at schools, colleges and universities all over Wisconsin. Education has always been – and continues to be – the single largest investment in our state budget. Year after year, we have invested in our kids, our teachers and our schools. This year is no different.

We approved $1.6 billion for public schools, including $781 per pupil for every school district that was open, in-person for at least 50% during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the school districts in the 17th Senate District worked very hard to offer as much in-person instruction as possible. They made huge adjustments. They invested in safety equipment and supplies. Their faculty and staff really stepped up. These schools deserve additional funding for prioritizing our kids.

We also doubled investments in mental health programs for K-12 schools. We invested $19 million more in this important priority. We know that there are a lot of kids who are struggling as a result of the pandemic. We have heard from many constituents who are very concerned about the mental health of their children. We know that this is going to require our attention in the coming school year.

Finally, we heavily invested in special education. In the second year of the biennium, we will be funding 30% of the costs for special education in our schools by investing $85.4 million. We’ll be funding 40% of High Cost Special Education with an investment of $4 million. This has been an ongoing goal that we have been working hard to reach.

The WTCS and UW System are tremendous assets in Wisconsin. We made several strategic investments in important programs that will move Wisconsin forward.

We invested $5 million in a Nurse Educator program to help our public and private colleges to improve recruitment of professionals who can teach and train new nurses. We have a nursing shortage in Wisconsin. We also have a shortage in those who can train new nurses. This funding is intended to help to solve this problem.

We also invested $2 million in State Specialists at the University of Wisconsin Extension. These positions are especially important for our agricultural industry. The State Specialists conduct research, train and educate farmers, producers and others in agriculture with innovative research. This investment will provide cutting-edge information and resources to agriculture that improves yields, solves problems and creates efficiencies.

Finally, we invested an additional $9 million into the WTCS system to support our local technical colleges. These institutions have been extremely responsive to the needs of employers and industries throughout the state. Investing in the WTCS, in the midst of a worker shortage, will enable the colleges to continue to respond.

Again, we invested $150.5 million in Education on top of a deluge of Federal funding for schools and higher education. We continue to believe that public education is extremely important. Our ongoing investments demonstrate this belief while we continue to craft a responsible budget on behalf of the taxpayers of Wisconsin.

Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) represents Wisconsin’s 17th Senate District and is co-chairman of the Joint Finance Committee.