Public education advocates rally at Capitol to demand school funding

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Teachers, parents, students and other education advocates marched to the Capitol Tuesday afternoon to demand more money in public schools.

This was the last leg of a 60-mile march that started in Palmyra on Saturday. Advocates timed the march to end the same day the Wisconsin Assembly is voting on a new budget.

Rebecca Letter, a social studies teacher in Sheboygan joined the group at the Capitol. She said for 15 years, she has been teaching her own students to get involved.

"I had several students this year start to truly understand why they need to vote," Letter said. "I want to make sure we continue to provide everything we need for our students."

Letter joined other teachers and advocates to ask lawmakers to put more funding for schools in the budget for the next two years. They want this money to help pay for higher teacher salaries, special education and mental health resources, among other things.

"I implore you to do it because my children need you to do it," said Megan O'Halloran, a mom and a Milwaukee school board member.

O'Halloran walked the entire 60-mile route.

"The budget that is going to be voted on by our assembly members and our senators [on Wednesday] will continue to fail our students for another two years, and I simply couldn't stand by and watch that happen without saying something," she said.

O'Halloran and the other marchers say the $500 million increase for public education in the budget is not nearly enough, and it is too low compared to Governor Tony Evers' original $1.4 billion proposal.

The advocates hope to push for chance in the new budget for the next two years. Halloran said whether or not that happens, for her, the fight is not over.

"I look at it as a marathon, not a sprint and if they don't do the right thing this time, we'll keep marching, we'll come to their home districts and we'll bring that message to them," she said.

Advocates said more funding is necessary not just to help struggling schools, but also so schools do not have to choose between things like special education programs or bilingual teachers.