By Karen Stokes
The Wisconsin Legislature’s finance committee began the arduous task of revising Republican Governor Scott Walker’s 2015- 2017 state budget.
Through the course of the hearings, the legislature will question various state officials and examine plans for cuts to the University of Wisconsin (UW) System and the sexual assault reporting requirements, and cuts to the Wisconsin Public School and programs for long term care needs for disabled adults and the elderly.
Ray Cross, president of the UW System, testified before the Legislative budget committee this week, asking them to reduce Walker’s plan to cut $300 million in the next two years.
According to Wisconsin Public Radio, Cross also petitioned the committee to adopt the proposal to mainly free the UW system to from state oversight while promising that the system would remain public.
Cross said more freedom from the state would speed up building projects and supply acquisition.
A two-year tuition freeze will be extended for undergraduate resident students in 2015-2017.
It has been incorrectly reported throughout the news media last week that Gov. Walker initiated in his budget proposal the removal of state requirements on how universities report incidents of sexual assaults on campus.
In fact, this was a request from the UW system to the governor in an effort to eliminate redundant reporting requirements.
Walker’s proposed budget will cut over $127 million in funds for public school districts statewide. Around the state, school districts are calling for meetings to find solutions.
Wisconsin school superintendents and residents are standing up in opposition to the budget cuts.
“It’s hard to understand how the governor’s budget can be portrayed as a school reform or a positive transformation of most of our children.
It is a budget that advances a political agenda based on an ideological checklist while leaving our 870,000 public school students behind,” said Tony Evers, superintendent of Public Instruction of Wisconsin in a news release.
“The budget expands taxpayer funded vouchers to private schools and allows independent charter schools across the state. To pay for this, state aid to local schools will be cut with local property taxes likely picking up the new expense.”
Parents of school age children are concerned how the budget cuts will affect the quality of education for their children.
Sandy Krause is a mother of two and a parent who is very involved in her children’s education. Krause is also a parent of children with special needs.
“I’m concerned about the major cuts in education,” said Krause. “I don’t think gutting our public schools is good for any kids, especially kids at risk.”
Krause is concerned about her son, Aaron, who will soon be an 18 year old transitioning into adulthood. Aaron also lives with autism.
The state budget includes a $14.25 million in cuts to the states expanding Family Care Program, which offers services for those with physical or mental challenges.
Expanding this program would discontinue other programs for adults with disabilities including the IRIS program which benefits 11,000 low-income elderly and disabled adults with long term care needs to carry out their own plans to live independently.
“The budget as it is, is horrifying for the disability community.
The areas I am most concerned about is the slashing of IRIS out of the budget,” Krause said. “This program is the only way Aaron will be able to live independently in the future.”
Gov. Walker’s budget proposal needs approval from the Republican controlled state Legislature.
The Legislature will be voting on the proposal in June.