Published 2:09 p.m. CDT on June 22, 2023. Last updated 6:01 p.m. CDT on June 22, 2023
By Steve Schuster
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul met with law enforcement officials and school leaders in Milwaukee County Thursday asking Wisconsin legislators to urgently fund the Wisconsin Department of Justice Office of School Safety (OSS) before Federal dollars dry up.
According to Kaul, since its inception in 2018, OSS has become a critical resource for students, teachers, school administrators, and educational communities across the state of Wisconsin implementing practices proven to prevent violence in schools.
“We do know that sadly these tragedies have happened in schools across around the country and if even one of those cases would have resulted in violence in our schools, the investment we have requested for the Office of School Safety would be well worth that investment. There is nothing more important than keeping our kids safe and we need to make the kinds of investments that makes sure they stay safe,” Kaul said.
Kaul said the Office of School Safety has become a critical part of efforts to keep kids safe in schools in Wisconsin.
Kaul put the funding request in perspective.
“The funding we requested for the Office of School Safety over a two-year period is less than .1 percent of that budget surplus. We need the legislature to step up and prioritize school safety the same way parents at schools, across the state of Wisconsin,” Kaul said, during Thursday’s event.
Wisconsin Department of Justice officials told the Wisconsin Law Journal earlier in June that “Funding for all 3.8 positions is expected to run out around the end of 2023. Without legislative action to rectify that, we will be unable to keep them on staff.” On Thursday, Kaul pointed out that the OSS call center alone had 9 employees.
Kaul also noted that the legislature may meet as early as this evening to further discuss the Office of School Safety’s budget.
Also in attendance Thursday:
Trish Kilpin, Director of the Office of School Safety
Officer Adam Harnen, South Milwaukee Police Department
Dr. Jim Shaw, Superintendent of the South Milwaukee School District
As previously reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal, at a time when the State of Wisconsin has a record $6.6 billion surplus, the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee (JFC) approved a motion earlier in June effectively cutting all funds for school safety and only approved only a fraction of what Gov. Tony Evers requested for the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s budget.
“Republicans spent more on a swimming pool than school safety,” said Sen. Kelda Roys, one of the few Democrats on the JFC.
According to Roys, Wisconsin Republican legislators approved $900,000 to fund a swimming pool on the North Shore of Milwaukee, but wouldn’t allocate a single dollar above base for school safety.
The Joint Finance Committee is comprised of 4 Democrats and 12 Republicans. All four Democrats on the committee voted against the measure earlier in June.
All four JFC Democrats voted against the motion, which was introduced by Republicans Rep. Born and Sen. Marklein.
To view the full motion click here.
Representative Born (Co-Chair) (R – Beaver Dam)
Senator Marklein (Co-Chair) (R – Spring Green)
Representative Katsma (Vice-Chair) (R – Spring Green)
Senator Stroebel (Vice-Chair) (R – Saukville)
Senator Felzkowski (R – Irma)
Senator Ballweg (R – Markesan)
Senator Testin (R – Stevens Point)
Senator Wimberger (R – Green Bay)
Senator L. Johnson (D – Milwaukee)
Senator Roys (D – Madison)
Representative Zimmerman (R – River Falls)
Representative Rodriguez (R – Oak Creek)
Representative Kurtz (R – Wonewoc)
Representative Dallman (R – Green Lake)
Representative Goyke (D – Milwaukee)
Representative McGuire (D – Kenosha)
Senator Chris Larson was also critical of JFC’s motion in a recent tweet.