MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature have cut over $1 billion from K-12 public schools since taking office and, by the end of the current budget cycle, will have doled out in excess of $1 billion in taxpayer dollars through the private school voucher program to unaccountable private and religious schools. Now, in the final days of the legislative session, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is pushing to get his way with a last minute amendment that adds over $22 million more to the cuts to public schools as part of the voucher school funding scheme.
“Apparently $1 billion in cuts to public schools isn’t enough for Gov. Walker and his gang,” said One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “In the waning days of the session they’re trying to strip almost $23 million away from our public schools as the unaccountable private voucher program sucks up more tax dollars.”
A memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) details how Vos’ proposed amendment would cost school districts across the state where voucher schools are operating. Had the provision been in effect this school year, the LFB estimates K-12 schools would have lost in excess of $22 million.
Earlier information from the LFB showed that under Walker and the GOP legislature Wisconsin taxpayers will be shelling out over $1.1 billion between 2011 and the end of the current two-year budget cycle in 2017 for the voucher program. Meanwhile, public education in Wisconsin has suffered some of the largest budget cuts in the nation, with the LFB reporting that K-12 public school funding has been cut by just over $1 billion when compared to funding levels in the 2010-11 school year.
According to One Wisconsin Now’s review of state campaign finance reports filed in January, voucher backers contributed over $164,000 to allied politicians in just the last six months of 2015 and nearly $180,000 for the full year. One Wisconsin Now has been tracking contributions from voucher backers since 2008 and calculates they have larded Republican and conservative politicians with over $3.9 million in campaign cash.
In addition, recently updated research by One Wisconsin Institute exposed the Bradley Foundation, headed by Gov. Walker’s gubernatorial and ill-fated presidential campaign chair, as a leading player in the campaign to gut public education and promote the unaccountable, radical privatization of K-12 education. The Milwaukee-based group gave over $108 million from 2005 to 2014 to organizations, think tanks, journalists and right-wing academics participating in a massive propaganda effort in support of education privatization.
Ross concluded, “While Gov. Walker and his lapdog Republican legislature and have failed to support our public schools and failed to demand accountability from the billion dollar private school voucher program, they never seem to pass on a chance to appease the big money education privatization cabal.”