Unaccountable Private School Voucher Program a Billion Dollar Boondoggle Under Gov. Walker and Republican Legislature

‘A Bad Deal For Our Children, Our Public Schools and Wisconsin Taxpayers’

MADISON, Wis. — A new analysis from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau finds that under Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature, Wisconsin taxpayers will have to foot a $1.18 billion plus tab for the private school voucher program by the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year. In addition, the state treasury will take a $30 million per year hit from a no top income limit tax giveaway to parents already sending their kids to private schools.

One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross commented, “Not only did Gov. Walker and Republicans in the state legislature make the largest cuts to K-12 public education in state history, but by the end of this current budget they’ll have blown over $1.1 billion of taxpayer dollars on the unaccountable private school voucher program.”

According to a memo from the Fiscal Bureau, released today by Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling, spending on the unaccountable private school voucher program will skyrocket from $145.9 million in 2011 when Walker and Republicans came to power to over $257 million in 2016.

The state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has reported that under the expanded voucher program approved by the GOP, in excess of over 80% of the students applying for the program for the 2014–15 school year did not attend a Wisconsin public school in the previous year and in 2013 over 70% of the student receiving taxpayer funded vouchers were previously covering their tuition by other means.

Independent reviews of student achievement has found that voucher students do no better, and in some cases worse, than peer students in public schools. Over the years the voucher program has also been marred by numerous instances of financial irregularity, the use of unqualified, unlicensed teachers and schools being located in buildings with significant code violations.

Ross noted that the voucher program has escaped appropriate scrutiny and having to abide by the same rules as K-12 public schools because it has big money protecting it. One Wisconsin Now research revealed the $31 million plus school privatization propaganda campaign underwritten by the Bradley Foundation, headed by Gov. Walker’s gubernatorial and now presidential campaign chair. Campaign finance filings show regular, large donations from voucher backers to key elected officials and massive outside spending by the American Federation for Children, run by disgraced former Assembly Republican Speaker Scott Jensen, to elect legislators favorable to the education privatization industry.

Ross concluded, “The numbers are in and the private school voucher program is a billion dollar boondoggle. While it may satisfy the ideological whims of the right-wing foundation run by Gov. Walker’s campaign chair and out-of-state millionaires and billionaires it’s a bad deal for our children, our public schools and Wisconsin taxpayers.”

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One Wisconsin Now is a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.