'Foolish': Education officials frustrated with GOP inaction to secure $2.3B for schools

’Foolish’: Education officials frustrated with GOP inaction to secure $2.3B for schools

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin schools are at risk of losing $2.3 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid, more than originally estimated according to a new fiscal memo.

The state could lose the federal aid after Republicans on the budget committee did not allocate enough money to K-12 schools in order to comply with federal standards. It was previously reported Wisconsin was in jeopardy of losing $1.5 billion, but a memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau states $2.3 billion is now at risk. 

The GOP-controlled budget committee last month approved spending $128 million on K-12 schools and then put aside $350 million in another fund for future education costs, but that amount is far below what they need to meet under federal guidelines to secure relief aid.

Education officials called Republicans' inaction to invest more in K-12 schools "foolish."

"We've seen this Legislature in the past, shortchange public education, and it's just penny-wise and foolish," said Julie Underwood, dean emeritus of the School of Education at UW-Madison.

The funds would essentially be used to reimburse school districts for the costs they incurred during the pandemic, such as PPE, cleaning supplies and laptops for students to learn virtually.

Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam), a co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, said he's working on solutions to find a workaround to secure the funding, but he didn't further explain how he plans to do it.

"We have a variety of options and I think, as I've said in the past, will address that issue as we work through the budget process," said Born. "We certainly will take the action necessary to make sure we're able to meet the needs."

Republicans in the past have also argued not to increase school funding because districts already received federal aid during the pandemic.

"Public schools don't have everything they need, they've particularly, in Wisconsin, been underfunded and defunded for years," said Underwood.

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