LWV Urges A State Budget Prioritizing Quality of Life

WISCONSINREPORT.COM (03/16/2015) [PART ONE] – The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin (LWV) is urging lawmakers on the State Committee on Finance to keep Quality of Life in mind during their deliberations over the proposed State Budget. Meanwhile, members of the Joint Finance Committee will hold public hearings on the proposed 2015-17 state budget in various locations around the state.

Joint Committee on Finance Public Hearings are scheduled for Wednesday, March 18th 10am-5pm, Brillion High School, Endries Performing Arts Center; Friday, March 20, 10am-5pm, Alverno College, Pitman Theatre; Monday, March 23, 10am-5pm, University of Wisconsin – Barron County, Fine Arts Theatre; Thursday, March 26, 9:30am-4:30pm, Reedsburg High School, CAL Center Auditorium.

The official League of Women Voters input to the committee suggests: “The budget should provide us with a high quality of life, which means top-notch education for all of our children and young adults, public transit to get us to family-sustaining jobs, clean air and water, access to affordable healthcare for all Wisconsin residents, and an open and responsive government. This is Wisconsin’s tradition, and it is the foundation for long-term sustainability in our state”.

The League of Women Voters “guidance” for legislators points to “the most alarming part of the proposed budget is that it repeatedly recommends a weakening of the checks and balances which protect citizens from political swings in government”.

“These recommendations are not fiscal matters at all. They are very significant policy matters that threaten to change the fundamental relationship between the people and our government”, the LWV statement continues.

“For example, the Wisconsin Judicial Commission was created in 1971 as an independent body to oversee judicial conduct with the authority to investigate judges and recommend discipline. It protects the people from the rare judge who abuses or misuses the authority that goes with the position. The proposed budget would place the commission under the control of the state Supreme Court, making it accountable to the very justices it needs, on occasion, to investigate”, the LWV suggestions to the Joint Committee on Finanace states.

The official LWV comments to the committee about the Wisconsin budget doesn’t hold back in the group’s disapproval of what they see in the budget under consideration:

“There are several other examples of this kind of policy change in other parts of the proposed budget, including weakening of the citizen-based Natural Resources Board and encroachment on the authority of locally elected school boards who are accountable for education in their districts”.

“The proposed budget seriously diverts tax dollars from our public schools to private schools. Further, even under the bills that have been introduced in the Assembly and House this year, private schools will still not be required to meet the same requirements as public schools, including: 1. accounting for the use of public funds; 2. comparable performance standards for their students; 3. the same state standards for all school employees.”

“In addition, the proposed budget recommends funding cuts to some of the important programs and services that are the lifeblood of a public education system intended to serve all children. In particular, we are concerned about the following wide-ranging proposals in the budget for pre-kindergarten to grade 12 public education in Wisconsin: 1. Elimination of limitations in statewide choice program; 2. Changes in eligibility for private school vouchers; 3. Creation of Charter School Oversight Board to oversee schools; 4. Other changes in charter school creation and operations; 5. Changes in statewide Common Core program of standards, assessment and accountability; 6. Accountability standards for schools would change to letter grades; 7. Teacher licenses available without teacher education certification; 8. Other funding changes that stress public education.”

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin’s assessment of the proposed state budget continues:

“The proposed budget also contains wide-ranging policy proposals relating to our University of Wisconsin System, which threaten to lower its stature as a top-notch institution and make it inaccessible as a step toward prosperity for many of our families.”

“Our concerns include:featured,  a. There is inadequate information on the specifics and ramifications of a change to an Independent Authority. Such a drastic change should not be undertaken without much more careful study with input from many directions. Funding implications would be of critical importance but so would many other important issues that have been key in the role of public higher education in Wisconsin. This includes our concern about possible language changes in the historical definition mission of the University of Wisconsin. b. The catastrophic immediate and long-term effects of the enormous funding decrease for the UW System and the impact on providing high quality education for Wisconsin students. c. The effect of a mandated freeze in tuition along with the projected huge funding decreases.

The League of Women Voters points out in the proposed State Budget critique that LWV “has worked for 95 years to promote informed and active participation in government”.

“We believe that an education does not stop at the end of one’s formal schooling. Therefore, we also oppose the 34 percent cut recommended for Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television. These are invaluable services that keep people informed and up-to-date with in-depth reporting and educational programming.”

There are many more observations regarding the proposed Wisconsin Budget that perplex the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. See Part Two of the LWV Comments on the Proposed State Budget in WisconsinReport.com for more. – WISCONSINREPORT.COM


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