Willis B. Cross
Darrell Lee “Del” DeRemer
Robert L. Emerson
Rebecca M. Esparza
Eugene A. Fischer
Donald Marvin Haney
Frieda Katherine (Pfenning) Jose
Edythe E. Layman
Michael Lyle “Mike” Palmer
Richard F. Trezek
Randy L. Wheaton
Robert J. “Ces” Wickham
Mark A. Williams
A day after calling for $2 billion more in public school funding Tuesday, Gov. Tony Evers will tour Van Buren Elementary School in Janesville on Wednesday afternoon and discuss his latest school funding proposal.
Republicans derided Evers’ plan, which the governor released nine weeks before the election and is designed to allow school spending to increase without resulting in higher property taxes.
Evers 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. But then it would be up to the Republican-controlled Legislature, which rejected much of what Evers wanted to do 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 Tuesday. “We have to do this. ... This is an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos dismissed the plan as “a feeble ploy to try to win votes after the disastrous results of Governor Evers’ failures.”
Evers’ Republican opponent, Tim Michels, said Evers’ plan was “the same as it always is.”
“More money and more bureaucracy,” Michels said in a statement. “The tired, old Evers approach has not worked.” A key part of Michels’ education platform is expanding private school vouchers to all students statewide, which Evers opposes.
“He’s spent his career in education and our schools keep getting worse, especially (Milwaukee),” Michels said. “I will get Wisconsin headed in the right direction. I will empower parents with greater access to information and more options for their kids.”
Evers unveiled highlights of his education plan at a news conference at Academy of Accelerated Learning in Milwaukee, where he was joined by state superintendent for schools Jill Underly as they welcomed students back to class for the fall.
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.
Under Evers’ plans, aid per student would increase $24 next year and $45 the year after, at a cost of $60 million. That money is outside of the revenue limits for schools. He is also calling for spending $750 million more on special education.
Other parts of his plan would spend $240 million to ensure that every public school district has at least one full-time staffer focused on mental health services.
One of the goals of the plan is to improve student reading and literacy. It includes a new $10 million aid program to fund literacy-related programming, with an emphasis on helping 4- and 5-year-old students who are just beginning to learn how to read.
The plan also strives to expand access to free meals for students by creating a state-funded program to reimburse districts for breakfast, milk, snack, and lunch expenses for students. Evers said the plan would provide free meals to students who qualify for free and reduced price meals, while also lowering costs for other students.
Other parts of the education funding proposal include efforts to improve financial literacy programs, bolster out-of-school programming, and change the law relating to the hiring of retired teachers and staff to allow more open positions to be filled by experienced staff.
A white man and a member of the Cherokee Nation have joined forces in faith and friendship to travel the Trail of Tears and promote healing and more.
Doug Shaw of Beloit is director of Forthright Ministries International. Jimmy Muskrat is a member of the Keetoowah band of the Cherokee Nation.
In 2019, Forthright Ministries began documenting the testimonies of Native Americans throughout the United States and Canada.
“During these trips, we connected with Jimmy Muskrat. During our multiple conversations, we discussed a revisit to the Trail of Tears where we would document stories of hope along the way,” Shaw said.
Muskrat is an evangelist who has traveled the country for the past 21 years as a motivational speaker and someone who has shared the gospel with other tribes.
“I’m excited,” said Muskrat about the plan to drive the historic trail Nov. 1-14 from South Carolina to Oklahoma.
The Trail of Tears refers to the U.S. government-forced displacements of roughly 60,000 Native Americans between 1830 and 1850. They were forced to leave their homelands in the Southeastern states for a reservation in Oklahoma. Along the way, many suffered and died from disease, starvation and exposure.
The tribes involved included the Cherokee, Muskogee, Seminole, Chickasaw and Choctaw. Thousands died along the route or shortly after reaching their destination.
After a year of planning, Shaw and Muskrat said they will drive the 1,200-mile route together, interview people along the way and record experience on film.
The trail is not new to Muskrat, who said he traced the route on his bicycle when he was 13 years old.
“I know the trail. I know about the mass graves and the history,” he said.
Shaw and Muskrat are well aware of the challenges Indigenous people face such as poverty, joblessness, drug and alcohol abuse, violence and educational needs.
Before he became involved with ministries, Muskrat said his job was being a chicken catcher. He also said he was into drugs and alcohol.
But that changed one day when he was at church and the spirit moved him.
“God changed my life,” Muskrat said. “I’ve been drug-free for 21 years. I gave my life to the lord. The lord set me free.”
And in November, he and Shaw plan on sharing the word of God with those they talk to and film.
When the project is finished, “The goal is to put the video on platforms such as YouTube and more,” Shaw said.
The endeavor is twofold—first, to show those who are suffering that there is hope and second, to show how others have broken free from poverty and substance abuse, he said.
In the past, the government wanted to wipe out Native American culture, Shaw said. But he said there are traditions they don’t have to step away from and that it is possible to blend culture and religion.
Anyone wishing to donate to the project can contact Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org.