MADISON, Wis. — With the field set for a three-way February 2017 Primary Election for Superintendent of Public Instruction, the race to appease the big spending private school voucher industry is on between candidates John Humphries and Lowell Holtz. While each seeks to replace Superintendent Tony Evers to head the state agency responsible for overseeing K-12 public schools in the state, they have been outspoken in their desire to take funding away from the state’s public schools and send it to less accountable private voucher schools.
“Let the shameless pandering begin,” said One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “For the next seven weeks get set to watch as John Humphries and Lowell Holtz try to outdo each other and prove they are the one who most wants to sell out Wisconsin’s public schools and send more money to the less accountable private voucher schools. And in the process collect the campaign cash of the ultra-wealthy right wing ideologues and their front groups that support a failing experiment.”
Ross noted that far from “doing it for the kids,” the race for the support of private school voucher supporters is about cold, hard campaign cash. The American Federation for Children (AFC), led by disgraced former Republican Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, has spent over $5 million in Wisconsin elections since 2010 to try to elect politicians willing to spend tax dollars on private schools.
Out-of-state billionaires, including Arkansas heirs to the Walmart fortune and Amway heiress and Donald Trump Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, have donated generous sums from their personal fortunes to Wisconsin politicians willing to pledge their allegiance to their private school voucher experiment.
Closer to home research from One Wisconsin Institute exposed how the right-wing Bradley Foundation, based in Milwaukee, spent over $108 million in support of education privatization from 2005 to 2014, funding over 130 organizations supportive of their privatization agenda.
All the spending to promote the voucher industry has paid off big time in Wisconsin. In recent years, with a pro-voucher Republican-led state legislature and Gov. Scott Walker, the unaccountable private school voucher program dramatically expanded while state public schools suffered the 4th largest budget cuts in the nation.
According to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the private school voucher program, with lower accountability standards than public schools, will snag $800 million in state tax dollars over the decade. In addition to sending massive sums of public tax dollars to private schools, the Republican-controlled legislature also enacted a special tax break that allows millionaires and others sending their kids to private schools and academies to get a deduction for tuition at an estimated annual cost of $30 million.
Ross concluded, “It seems like an impossible logical leap for someone running to oversee our state’s public schools to call for more funding to be stripped from public K-12 schools and sent to less accountable private voucher schools. But winning the primary for the support of the private voucher school industry isn’t about doing what’s best for Wisconsin school kids, it’s about John Humphries and Lowell Holtz trying to fatten their campaign accounts.”