On July 3, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers signed off on the state’s latest biennial budget.
While the budget overall represents an increase in education funding, one of 78 vetoes issued by Evers eliminated $250,000 in matching grants to Lakeland STAR School/Academy.
The North Lakeland School District is one of five districts that have contributed financially to the Lakeland STAR School/Academy, approving $50,000 in funding in August, 2018.
The school’s mission statement is stated on its website.
“To cultivate self-reliance and determination in all students, so they may discover their unique potential and maximize their capabilities by providing a transition focused, personalized education program in an environment that fosters acceptance and honors individual strengths,” it reads.
At Monday’s meeting of the North Lakeland School district’s board of education, administrator Brent Jelinski addressed the issue during an update on the state budget.
“We worked really hard to get that in there,” he said of the effort by Lakeland area school administrators and others to get the grant funding in the budget. “It’s disappointing it was taken out.”
By the end of the school’s recently completed first year, there were 20 students enrolled.
In the next two years, that number is expected to double.
While there are, at the moment, no students from North Lakeland enrolled at the Lakeland STAR School/Academy, Jelinski said that could change and was one of the reasons the school board approved that $50,000 last year and it’s anticipated will continue with at least that level of financial support.
“There’s a lot of community support, public support for what’s happening at the STAR Academy,” he said. “We were looking for the state to help out. It’s a pilot program, in it’s second year but the hope is, I know, it will spread throughout the state.”
There’s always, Jelinski said, going to be initial costs in starting something up.
“Anybody starting a business knows there’s more cost up front,” he said. “That’s just where it’s at right now.”
As for the reason for the Evers veto, Jelinski said the governor believes there shouldn’t be “winners and losers picked for education ... it should go to all.”
“This is something new being tried in the state,” he said. “I consider it something similar to what a charter school would be but hopefully, we’ll be able to get something put together as a separate piece of legislation down the road.”
Meanwhile, Jelinski said the Lakeland STAR School/Academy is moving forward.
“Things are going really well there,” he said. “It’s something, I think, with the support of local businesses, private (sector), us as a school and other area schools, it’ll continue to move forward and I don’t think it will fail.”
Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected]