Governor’s race: Scott Walker, Tony Evers blame each other over school budget cuts

MILWAUKEE -- With voters saying Wisconsin's schools are getting worse, Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Tony Evers are trying to blame one another for past budget cuts.

Walker made historically deep cuts to schools in 2011, his first budget as governor. But he says Evers, the state schools superintendent, didn't do enough to prevent cuts when Democrats were in charge of state government.

Tony Evers

"We're going for it," Evers told reporters during an event kicking off the first day of classes at Milwaukee Public Schools. "Our proposal will not increase property taxes in the state, period."

To pay for the funding increases without raising taxes, Evers said he would find savings elsewhere or would attempt to overhaul Wisconsin's complicated funding system that determines how much money school districts receive.

Asked if he thought Evers could achieve funding increases and hold the line on property taxes, Walker answered by instead criticizing Evers for failing to prevent cuts in 2009.

"When Democrats controlled the governship and the legislature, they cut hundreds of millions of dollars from public education. He was superintendent at the time. He couldn't even convince his own party," Walker said.

The biennial budget approved that year cut the amount of state funding for school districts. But Evers was not sworn into office until July 6, 2009, seven days after then-Gov. Jim Doyle signed the state budget into law.

Scott Walker

Walker's campaign clarified the governor's comments late Wednesday, explaining that Walker was referring to Evers as the incoming schools superintendent.

“Tony Evers was elected in April, and couldn’t convince his party not to cut education either as incoming superintendent for nearly three months or as deputy superintendent for years before that," said Austin Altenburg, a Walker spokesman.

Walker also said Evers's criticism of low school funding falls flat because of Evers' 2017 praise of Walker's proposed budget increases.

"This last two years, we've put more money, more actual dollars, into schools that ever before. It's why Tony Evers himself called it a pro-kid budget," said Walker.

Evers has hit Walker for enacting the deepest education cuts in state history in 2011. He said his proposed funding increases would especially target special education and the Milwaukee district.

"I really think it's going to advantage Milwaukee Public Schools. I think they'll have the resources they need to move this district forward," Evers said.

Evers told reporters this week that Wisconsin should freeze its voucher program, which has expanded under Walker and a GOP Legislature.

Walker is promoting a plan that will extend youth apprenticeships to seventh- and eighth-graders to tailor their coursework to their future careers.