MADISON, Wis. — Speaker Robin Vos is rescinding his promise Assembly Republicans would pass an accountability bill to protect taxpayers and students against poorly-performing privatized schools. At the same time, Assembly Republicans backed by enormous sums of campaign money from the school privatization industry continue to push statewide expansion of unaccountable private schools.
According to One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross, “Once again, the school privatization cartel’s special interests that finance Speaker Vos and his legislative majority win the jackpot, while Wisconsin parents, taxpayers and school children pay the price.”
In public comments reported on Friday by Wisconsin Public Radio, Vos said a statewide expansion of the taxpayer funded private school voucher program could move forward without accountability measures in place. This is a significant reversal from the position Vos took just weeks earlier when he suggested passing an accountability bill would be required before further expanding the voucher program.
A front group for the voucher movement, the American Federation for Children, overseen by disgraced former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, has poured at least $4.5 million to elect pro-voucher candidates since 2010, including nearly $1 million in 2014 Assembly races alone. In addition out-of-state millionaires and billionaires, including heirs to the Wal-Mart and Amway fortunes, consistently make large campaign contributions directly to voucher friendly Republican elected officials.
Ross noted that true accountability for the voucher program is long overdue and desperately needed to protect both children and taxpayers. For example in 2013 a voucher school that had raked in over $2.3 million in tax money while failing to help a single student test proficient in math abruptly closed mid-term. Earlier this year it was reported that a voucher school in Milwaukee that has snagged over $35 million from state taxpayers hired teachers that lack degrees, a violation of state law if true. The school also reportedly employs numerous family members of the school’s owner and does not disclose how tax funds are allocated between management salaries and classroom resources.
The 2015 budget proposed by Gov. Walker and now under consideration by the state legislature, would allow the still unaccountable private school voucher program to expand statewide, with no limits. In the current school year the voucher program will receive over $200 million from state taxpayers. Meanwhile efforts to pass even minimal accountability legislation have fizzled amid disagreements between the Senate, Assembly and Gov. Walker.
“It is outrageous that legislators can’t figure out how to pass legislation to require even a minimal amount of accountability from the private school voucher program that’s already receiving more than $200 million of our tax dollars this school year. It couldn’t be clearer where their loyalty really lies now that they are now poised to let this private voucher school industry expand statewide without an accountability bill Speaker Vos said needed to be part of the deal mere weeks ago,” Ross concluded.