Gudex’s Special Interest Supporters Agenda Could Harm Children With Disabilities, Increase Local Property Taxes

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MADISON, Wis. — The special interest group that has to date spent over $114,000 on television ads in support of State Senate candidate Rick Gudex lobbied in favor of bills that would have increased local property taxes and hurt educational opportunities for children with disabilities in the 2011-12 session of the Wisconsin legislature.

One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross commented, “Big bucks from wealthy, out-of-state right wing ideologues are being spent on behalf of Rick Gudex, but it’s local taxpayers and children that would be harmed by their agenda with higher local property taxes and less educational opportunity.”

According to state lobbying records, the American Federation for Children, an organization funded largely by big contributions from wealthy out-of-state right wing ideologues, lobbied in favor of legislation to expand the private school voucher program in Wisconsin. But advocates for people with disabilities and public school officials were critical of their efforts.

Assembly Bill 110 was promoted as an attempt to help children with disabilities by allowing them to leave their school district to attend another public, charter or private school using a tuition voucher. However, the state’s most respected organization that fights for the rights of people with disabilities, Disability Rights Wisconsin, publicly testified in opposition to the bill saying it, “will do far more harm to children with disabilities than good.”

In the 2011-13 state budget, the private school voucher program that uses state tax dollars to pay to send children to private and religious schools was expanded to Racine. Local school officials in Racine reported that the voucher expansion there will increase local property taxes for public schools by over $1 million, while Milwaukee taxpayers are socked with over $50 million in higher property taxes to pay for their existing voucher program. Green Bay, the target of an unsuccessful voucher program expansion, could have seen their local property taxes shoot up by nearly $3 million, according to their school officials.

Ross concluded, “Gudex needs to answer whose side is he on, local taxpayers and school children or the out-of-state millionaires and billionaires funding the television ads running on his behalf?”

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One Wisconsin Now specializes in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.