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“A Penny for Kids” is catching fire
but now is the time to do even more

If you need proof that your efforts on behalf of “A Penny for Kids” are making a difference, check this out on the website of Advocates for Madison Public Schools. Mark Pocan, the representative of Madison’s 78th Assembly District and co-chair of the Legislature’s powerful Join Finance Committee, has included it on his annual end-of-the-session survey.

As he starts thinking about the next legislative session, Rep. Pocan asked his constituents if, perhaps, a one-cent increase in Wisconsin’s already low sales tax-he even called it “A Penny for Kids”-might be the way to address the revenue crisis in our public schools.

Rep. Pocan deserves a big thank you for his leadership on this issue. So do all of you who signed the petition to which he is responding. This is how good teams are formed and good public policy is written.

There is more to be done, though. Wisconsin has 99 Assembly Districts … plenty of room for those interested in reform to make a difference. If you haven’t signed the petition-no matter where you live-do it now. Then, pass the link along to others and talk to your legislators about supporting “A Penny for Kids.”

Need some ideas? Here’s a few:

  • Summer is coming and that’s time for fairs … county fairs, the State Fair, 4-H fairs, and community fairs. Download petitions get yourself a clipboard, and circulate through the crowd todo your part for your kids’ educations.
  • The end of the school year is fast approaching. That means all kinds of events for parents and students. These events would be excellent times to circulate petitions.
  • Farmers’ market are great places to buy your food locally … and to help your children make sure they have the educational opportunities the constitution guarantees them.
  • Summer means summertime “stuff” like ball games, swimming pools, carnivals, street and block parties, and neighborhood events. Don’t be shy, this is too important. Make sure where you go, you go with “A Penny for Kids” petitions and a pen.

School aid estimates make "A Penny for Kids" look even better

The evidence continues to mount: Wisconsin needs a drastic and comprehensive overhaul of its school-funding system, but, first, we need to address the desperate revenue crisis faced by more and more children, property taxpayers, and communities.

That is the reason for "A Penny for Kids" — to meet that crisis head-on and to buy us some time to finally take care of real reform and change. "A Penny for Kids" is the right thing to do, and every day that passes proves that.

"A Penny for Kids" was born when State Government, because of a downturn in the economy, cut aid to public schools-resulting in accelerating staff lay-offs, cuts to programs and services, and property tax increases over and above those forced on communities for the last 17 years by a school-funding system that no longer works.

Although tempered by federal stimulus dollars, the state budget took about $150 million out of the aid pipeline. A one-cent increase in the sales tax — already one of the lowest in the country — would go a long, long way toward stopping what has been described as the decomposition of Wisconsin's public schools.

And, it doesn't look like things will get better soon, again underscoring the need for "A Penny for Kids." State school aid estimates released earlier this month prompted this headline in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "State aid to schools expected to drop." That was followed the next day by a similar headline in the Wisconsin State Journal: "School district braces for aid decline." And, it will happen all over Wisconsin. The total aid estimate for the state showed that 249 of the state's 425 districts will again lose aid.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Public Instruction, overall the state is spending about the same amount on schools next year as it did for the school year just ended. The variables in the funding formula mean more districts will see a decrease in state funding than an increase.

That is the crisis WAES is talking about and the crisis addressed by "A Penny for Kids." You bet, we still need to change the way we fund our public schools for the future. Until we address the crisis created by the state budget, however, the futures of many schools, kids, and communities will just continue to get dimmer.

Go to the "A Penny for Kids" website, sign the petition of support, pass the petition along to all the people you know, and then spend some time on the website figuring out the next step in your community (letter to the editor, school board contacts, legislative contacts, etc.).

"A Penny for Kids" — it only makes sense for the future of our communities, our schools, and our children.

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