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"SAGE" Advice on School Funding

December 4, 2006

Milwaukee, WI - A Wisconsin school program targeting low-income students marks its tenth year, just as the state's school budget is set to be a top priority for the new legislature. The SAGE program provides smaller class sizes in 480 schools for kindergarten through third grade.

With the next school budget on the table, Tom Beebe with the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools says the SAGE expansion should be part of a larger school funding reform package to help kids in poverty, as well as city and rural schools facing budget crunches.

"To give all children the opportunity that the Constitution guarantees them, some need more revenue than others. One of those groups, as recognized by the Supreme Court, is children who come from poverty. The SAGE program should have that extra revenue needed for all students who come from poverty."

He adds that the SAGE program should also be expanded, to follow kids all the way to the 12th grade.

"If the SAGE program is meant to address children in poverty, I think most people would recognize the fact that poverty doesn't stop at the third grade."

Critics of expanding programs like SAGE point to the additional costs in tight budget times. Beebe agrees that it might take tax shifts or increases, but he believes it's worth it.

"If an investment in our children is going to be a priority, and we know we are under-investing, then we need to find the revenue to make the needed investment."

Beebe says expanding the SAGE program should be part of a major budget effort to help under-funded schools. He'd like to see the state provide additional help for transportation, bilingual education, and funding for special education.

Rob Ferrett/Eric Mack, Public News Service - WI