Pro-Voucher Donors Get Their Way

GOP Majority on Budget Committee Has Taken Over $122,000 in Campaign Contributions, Approves Scheme to Divert Public School Aid

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MADISON, Wis. — In the early morning hours the Republican majority on the powerful budget writing Joint Committee on Finance approved what amounts to a tax money laundering scheme taking money from public schools and giving it to private school voucher schools. An analysis of campaign finance records by One Wisconsin Now found pro private school voucher backers larded GOP committee members with over $122,000 in direct campaign donations in addition to massive spending by the voucher front group the American Federation for Children headed by disgraced former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen.

“It’s pretty clear what’s happening here,” said One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “The voucher industry has spent lavishly to install compliant politicians in positions of power. And they’re paying their back their political cronies by taking our money that should be going to public schools and instead giving it to private schools.”

After cutting public education by record amounts, leaving Wisconsin projected to fall below the national average in per pupil funding for public schools, Gov. Walker and the Republican state legislature expanded the unaccountable private school voucher program statewide. Under the scheme for the 2015 budget approved last night public schools would receive a meager increase in state funding, but funding would then be taken away on a per pupil basis to fund the private school voucher program and a special needs voucher program opposed by state disability advocates.

One Wisconsin Now reviewed campaign finance records of the twelve Republican members of the Joint Committee on Finance and found in sum they have snagged $122,050 from the voucher industry conduit and other public backers of using tax money to fund private schools since 2008. Committee co-chair Sen. Alberta Darling led all committee members with nearly $36,000 from voucher backers and Rep. John Nygren, Assembly co-chair, led all Assembly members with $8,500 in campaign cash.

Besides contributions directly to political campaigns the voucher industry front group the American Federation for Children has spent lavishly on Wisconsin campaigns. The group, headed by disgraced former Assembly Republican Speaker Scott Jensen, has poured at least $4.5 million to elect pro-voucher candidates in Wisconsin since 2010.

Offering ideological cover with a $30 million plus propaganda campaign detailed in the One Wisconsin Now report, P is for Payoff, is the Bradley Foundation, run by Gov. Walker’s gubernatorial campaign co-chair Michael Grebe.

Ross concluded, “Plain and simple politics trump public schools in Gov. Walker’s Wisconsin. There’s no clearer demonstration than what happened in the early morning hours as the GOP rammed through policies never before introduced or subjected to public scrutiny to serve the ideological demands of the voucher industry.”

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