Racine Journal Times editorial: Voucher-school accountability must be a priority for governor
October 19, 2014 Journal Times Editorial Board
Wisconsin taxpayers have paid about $139 million to private schools that ended up being barred from the state’s voucher system for failing to meet requirements since 2004, the Wisconsin State Journal reported this month.
While this exorbitant number is new, the issue of voucher accountability is not. We reported on this problem extensively after St. John Fisher Academy closed in 2012 following only one year of operation.
The Northwestern Avenue school had counted on various grants and other funding coming in. But they didn’t come through and, after months of teachers working without pay, the school announced its closing because of lack of funding.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal report, 11 schools, paid a total of $4.1 million, were terminated from the voucher program after only one year.
In the past legislative session, some changes to law were passed that required schools to gain accreditation and have detailed plans for curriculum, budgeting and staffing before they can be admitted into the program, Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin, said in the State Journal article.
Part of the school experience is establishing relationships with fellow students and with teachers. If a school closes after one year, those relationships are torn apart as students are dispersed.
When parents send their children to a particular school, be it private or public, they should be able to trust that the school will remain open through the year and in subsequent years.
Just as important, we don’t like the idea of tax money being thrown down the drain.
The debate about vouchers has already started between gubernatorial candidates and, even after the election, likely it will not go away anytime soon.
We have supported the idea of giving parents the option to explore private schools as an alternative to public schools with the support of vouchers.
But the money shouldn’t be tossed willy-nilly at any school putting out a hand.
The schools being offered taxpayer money should be accountable to many of the same standards as public school.
While the debate over expanding or decreasing the voucher program certainly will continue among Republicans and Democrats, accountability for those schools accepting vouchers now and in the future needs to be a priority for both parties.