Editorial: School voucher proponents exposed
Posted: Thursday, April 14, 2011 Tomah Journal
For years, the Milwaukee School Choice program has been advertised as a way to give poor children more education options.
Now, it looks like a way to stick a knife into public education.
Governor Scott Walker wants to expand the Milwaukee choice program by phasing out income limits and has hinted at taking the program statewide. If he’s successful, a program that was designed to give poor parents the financial means to liberate their children from Milwaukee Public Schools will mutate into a subsidy for affluent parents who already send their children to private schools.
Howard Fuller sees right through it. The former Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent is a passionate advocate of school choice, but he condemned Walker’s proposed changes during a Tuesday hearing of the state Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee. Fuller called the changes “egregious” and “outrageous” and vowed to oppose the Milwaukee choice program if Walker’s proposals went into effect.
Perhaps Fuller is well aware the dominant Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, of which Walker is a member, is no friend of poor children. Let’s assume that the Tea Party is successful in totally voucherizing education in the same way Paul Ryan wants to voucherize Medicare. Will the Tea Party maintain its concern for the poor? Or does that concern ebb when poor children are no longer useful as a club against public education?
Walker’s vouchers have a statewide impact. He’s proposing more money for private schools, charter schools and on-line schools while making deep and reckless cuts in traditional public education — a model that works very well outside of Milwaukee. Tomah, for example, is facing a $2.1 million deficit, only $1.2 million of which can be bridged by substantial cuts in employee benefits. That leaves Tomah to cut $900,000 from programs that significantly benefit Tomah students.
There is no doubt public education had to absorb some cuts to balance the state budget and that some of those cuts would come from pension and health benefits from teachers and staff. But those cuts could be less draconian without Walker’s privatization agenda. Walker’s proposal is more than just trying to balance the state budget; it represents an ideological crusade against public education.
Howard Fuller sees through it. Do members of the state Legislature?