Marchers walk 60 miles to push for more education funding in Wisconsin

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MADISON (WKOW) — A group of teachers, students, parents and education advocates will arrive in Madison Tuesday after a 60-mile march to urge lawmakers to restore funding cut from Gov. Evers’ proposed budget.

The four-day march started Saturday in Palmyra, as the group takes turns marching through local communities.

Milwaukee mom and school board member Megan O’Halloran has walked every step of the way, fighting for public schools.

“It has been very eye-opening, that we have so much more in common than people are willing to admit,” she said. “We all have our own unique challenges but we’re all in this together and so it’s been great to get to meet everybody and the hospitality has been fantastic along the way.”

The group made it to Marshall High School Monday afternoon for a lunch break and to hear from school officials about their struggles.

District Administrator Dan Grady and other Marshall Public Schools leaders spoke to the marchers about how the district has had to turn to voters to pay to keep the doors open in recent years.

“Many [schools] have gone to operating referendums. So any any help that we can get from the state level is certainly appreciated,” Grady told 27 News.

Rumors of possible school closings were flying before an operating referendum was approved in April in Marshall.

“Our kids heard that and so kids were coming to staff members asking where are we going to go if this building closes minds were not really on the academics anymore,” teacher Laura McCarty told the marchers.

Grady says state funding has not kept up with inflation and special ed funding has been a challenge.

Margarita Rubio also told her story to the marchers, describing the challenges her son with special needs has faced in his Madison school.

“It’s not just about my child, it’s about other children as well,” she told 27 News. “He deserves an education just like anybody else.”

The marchers are focusing on special education funding in their message to lawmakers and their route from Palmyra to the Capitol.

“[It’s] 60 miles because the governor proposed to lift the special education reimbursement rate to 60 percent. The state used to reimburse public school districts over 70 percent and now it only reimburses at a level of 25 percent. Private School students, on the other hand, who attend on a special needs voucher get a 90 percent reimbursement,” said Heather DuBois Bourenane, with Wisconsin Public Education Network, which organized the march.

On Tuesday morning, the march moves from Sun Prairie’s Patrick Marsh Middle School after an 8:30 a.m. kickoff with local speakers to Madison East High School.

The lunch rally at East is expected to be attended by Lt. G. Mandela Barnes and features a short rally with speakers Mike Hernandez, Principal of Madison East High School and  Madison Metropolitan School District school board member Nicki Vander Meulen.

A final rally is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at the state Capitol.

The Wisconsin Assembly is expected to vote on the budget Tuesday, including education funding.

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