Wisconsin’s attorney general is dialing up the pressure this week in an effort to get Republican lawmakers to include his Office of School Safety in the next state budget.
“This is not about affordability,” Kaul told reporters at the statehouse on Monday. “The Office of School Safety can be funded for the next two years for less than one-tenth or 1% of our state’s budget surplus.”
Kaul said it’s about priorities.
Wisconsin lawmakers created the Office of School Safety back in 2018 with a $1.8 million federal grant. Lawmakers used $2 million in coronavirus stimulus money to pay for the office in the last state budget.
Kaul said lawmakers have yet to include more money for the office in the next state budget.
“The current budget would effectively dismantle the Office of School Safety,” Kaul claimed. “The budget includes 3.8 positions for that office. And just to put that into perspective, there are nine people who staff the 24/7 tip line alone.”
Kaul is not saying just how much more he is looking for, either in terms of money or people.
The Republican-controlled legislature is expected to finalize the state budget this week.
“I’ve personally met with every member of the Joint Finance Committee, and we’ve talked about the importance of the Office of School Safety,” Kaul said. “We really are at, really, the critical point where we will see in the days ahead the final decisions made on the budget.”
Republicans haven’t said why the new budget trims the funding for the school safety office, but Republicans have been clear that Gov. Evers’ original budget proposal spent too much.
State Rep. Deb Andraca, D-Whitefish Bay, reiterated Kaul’s point that this is not about money.
“More than 1,700 schools and law enforcement agencies in 63 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties have received at least one tip [to the tip line]. The hotline has received more than 7,000 contacts, half of them in the 2022-2023 school year alone,” Andraca said.
The Wisconsin Senate is expected to take its final budget votes on Wednesday, though it’s not known when the Assembly will take its votes.