MADISON, Wis. — In his continuing travels in pursuit of his personal political ambitions, Gov. Scott Walker today visits New Orleans, Louisiana to address the private school voucher industry front group, American Federation for Children. Back home in Wisconsin it’s “let the good times roll” for the unaccountable voucher program as Republican politicians consider Walker’s scheme for further statewide expansion of taxpayer support for private schools while public schools may, at best, see their funding not cut.
“Gov. Walker and the Republican legislature subjected K-12 public schools to the largest cuts in state history,” said One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “And now instead of paying back the money they took from public schools, they’re proposing another expansion and more money be sent to private vouchers schools that lack accountability standards and have failed to produce demonstrable increases in student achievement.”
Last week it was reported that according to a national education funding expert, Wisconsin will slip below the national average when it comes to per pupil funding levels of K-12 public schools. Meanwhile in his 2015 budget now under consideration by the state legislature, Walker proposed expanding the voucher program statewide, with no limits. An alternative plan proposed by GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos would, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, divert nearly $50 million in funding for public schools to pay to send children to private voucher schools.
In the current school year the voucher program is taking in over $200 million from state taxpayers. Analyses of students receiving vouchers after the expansion in the last budget indicate that roughly 75 percent were already attending private schools without a taxpayer-funded voucher.
Despite widely reported issues of a lack of accountability for student achievement and use of tax dollars, efforts to pass even minimal accountability legislation have fizzled amid disagreements between the Senate, Assembly and Gov. Walker.
Ross noted that the private school voucher industry has aggressively funded efforts to elect politicians amenable to supporting them with public tax dollars, explaining why they not only refuse to hold the voucher program accountable but continue to increase funding.
The American Federation for Children in Wisconsin, overseen by disgraced former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, has poured in 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 Walmart and Amway fortunes, consistently make large campaign contributions directly to voucher-friendly Republican elected officials.
Walker has snagged an astonishing nearly $2 million alone in contributions from voucher backers for his gubernatorial campaign account since 2008. As detailed in the One Wisconsin Now report, P is for Payoff, the Bradley Foundation, run by Walker’s gubernatorial campaign co-chair Michael Grebe, funded a $31 million-plus propaganda campaign in support of education privatization in Wisconsin.
“Politics has trumped public schools and children in Gov. Walker’s Wisconsin. It’s no surprise Scott Walker is getting a warm welcome in New Orleans from the private school voucher industry for his efforts on their behalf, but it’s the children back here in Wisconsin that he’s supposed to be working for,” he concluded.