MADISON, Wis. — A newly created “task force on urban education” features members hand-picked by Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos who have benefitted from campaign contributions and heavy spending by pro-private school voucher special interests. Under Rep. Vos, the state Assembly dramatically expanded the unaccountable private school voucher program, stripped local control to facilitate school privatization and killed efforts to require equity in accountability between public schools and state subsidized private voucher and charter schools.
“Thanks to the massive spending by private voucher school and public education privatization special interests the fix has been in for them,” commented One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “This latest committee, packed with voucher cartel approved legislators, looks like yet another scheme to boost unaccountable school privatization in Wisconsin at the expense of our public schools.”
The task force is to be chaired by Rep. Jessie Rodriguez. In her 2013 special election, the pro-voucher special interest group American Federation for Children (AFC), headed by disgraced former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, registered over $45,600 in pro-Rodriguez “independent” expenditures. In total, groups associated with Jensen spent over $70,000 in the race. Rodriguez’s then-boss at Hispanics for School Choice and his wife loaned her campaign $1,000 and in total she has received $3,900 in direct contributions from voucher backers.
GOP members of the committee directly benefitted from the largesse of voucher backers with over $20,000 in total contributions directly to their campaign including chair Rep. Rodriguez, $6,125 to Rep. Mary Czaja and $10,000 to Rep. John Macco.
While education privatization advocates aren’t shy about giving directly to compliant legislators’ campaigns, the biggest special interest money flows through the American Federation for Children. The group has spent massively to pack the Assembly with legislators amenable to pouring more taxpayer dollars into the program without demanding more accountability, including expenditures of at least $850,000 on 20 targeted seats in 2014 and over $2.3 million in 2011 and 2012.
In their 2014 elections, task force member Rep. Dave Heaton saw AFC spend $148,858 on his behalf and Rep. Macco benefitted from $38,801 in AFC spending.
Ross concluded, “The challenges facing urban schools are real and complex and need to be dealt with in a serious way. But it is clear this task force is about one simple thing, keeping the pro-voucher special interest money flowing to Assembly Republicans for the 2016 elections.”