Michael Mathias Journal Sentinel Letter to Editor 7/20/011
False, exclaims the Truth-O-Meter accompanying the July 13 PolitiFact column on a statement by Rep. Peter Barca that Republicans “voted to take funding away from their public schools in their districts to give it to private Milwaukee choice schools” (“Choice doesn’t cost schools statewide”).
Having read through the column, however, the rating seems like a real stretch.
The column admits the new budget hurts Milwaukee Public Schools and Milwaukee taxpayers. And it concedes “it is possible that if large numbers of the new choice students come from private schools rather than Milwaukee Public Schools, there could be a net loss to taxpayers outside of MPS.”
Given the radical expansion of the voucher program, that’s too big an “if” to ignore. Last year, 6,200 students attended private voucher schools without a taxpayer subsidy. Now, with the income limit lifted to nearly $72,000, PolitiFact bases its “false” rating on the shaky assumption that most of those families won’t apply for the vouchers, leading to the increased statewide tax burden Barca is warning about. PolitiFact hedges somewhat, noting, “The bottom line here is we won’t know until some time in the future.”
Well, exactly. Others can debate why PolitiFact is free to engage in conjecture while Barca cannot, but the bottom line is this: State funding for private voucher programs is going up while funding for public education is going down by $1.6 billion. For public school parents, this means fewer choices for our children. And that’s the truth.