MADISON – Gov. Tony Evers is allocating $90 million more in federal pandemic funding for Wisconsin schools, a plan that provides an additional $7.5 million for Milwaukee classrooms over the next four years.
Evers said the funds are aimed at helping school officials recruit and retain teachers, combatting staffing shortages that have emerged since the coronavirus pandemic began in early 2020.
“Yes they are federal funds, I understand that, but until there is a (state) budget we need to make sure that the people that stand behind me can do the good work,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference at Leopold Elementary School in Madison. Evers, the former state superintendent and a former public school educator.
The new funding for teacher recruitment and retention comes as school districts struggle to fill vacant positions. In Milwaukee, the district has 272 unfilled teaching positions — about 6% of its total.
The vacancy rates are worse for special positions added by a 2020 referendum, in which voters approved boosting the district’s budget to fund certain positions. The district reported about 20 out of 29 referendum-funded teaching positions filled for art, 18 out of 40 for music, 19 out of 33 for physical education and 36 out of 39 for libraries.
The funds announced Tuesday come from the federal American Rescue Plan Act and will be distributed to public school districts and independent charter schools on a per-student basis. The additional funding amounts to about an extra $91 per student on top of funding schools receive through the state’s funding formula, according to the governor’s office.
About $75 million of the total amount may be used on staff or to address rising costs of supplies or busing students due to inflation, according to the plan. Another $15 million will go toward mental health services.