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EDITORIAL: Message clear: Many schools in need of funding flexibility

Last Thursday's budget hearing in front of the Joint Committee on Finance in Baldwin was an eye opener for many in attendance.

The requests related to the budget were wide ranging - everything from funding for courts, tobacco education programs, education and land conservation efforts.

Those witnessing the topics that fall under the scope of the state budget could agree on at least one thing, even if they couldn't agree on what Wisconsin's priorities should be when tax dollars are being spent. They could all agree it was better that someone else was figuring it all out.

One recurring theme during the seven-hour hearing came from the mouths of school administrators, school board members, teachers and public education boosters. Gov. Scott Walker's recent budget proposal, which wouldn't allow for any increase in spending by public schools, is not workable.

For many school districts, a compromise plan being offered by state senators Mike Ellis and Luther Olsen would provide for a $150-per-student increase in spending during each of the next two years. That suggestion, school officials claim, is much more workable.

Some districts, like Somerset, are still hoping for a $200-per-pupil increase, but most districts are content with the $150 hike if legislators are willing to go along with the idea.

Most school district would likely face significant cuts in 2013-14 and 2014-15 if the state revenue limit isn't changed and more spending is disallowed. A few districts that are growing, like New Richmond, may have fewer revenue concerns due to rising state aid levels, but they too want to see the $150-per-student amendment.

The Wisconsin Legislature, and Gov. Walker, would do a great disservice to the state and its residents by ignoring the pleas from school officials. This is not a case of public school boosters crying wolf, we feel.

The compromise plan seems to be a good idea if districts are to maintain and enhance the educational opportunities for students, thus better readying them for higher education or the job market.

In the long run, it would be a good investment in the state's future.