Rep. Thiesfeldt and members of the Assembly Education Committee, on behalf of the 75,000 plus online supporters of One Wisconsin Now, thank you for the opportunity to offer my testimony in opposition to Assembly Bill 1 (AB1).
This bill does not provide real accountability standards for all the schools in Wisconsin receiving public tax dollars. Instead it is a stacked deck for the special interests behind the taxpayer financed private school voucher program.
Look no further for evidence of this than the Academic Review Board (ARB) created in AB 1. This unelected board usurps the authority of the statewide elected Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop standards for schools and impose sanctions on those that fail to meet them.
The deck-stacking doesn’t stop there.
AB 1 also guarantees a majority for pro-voucher, pro-privatization advocates on the 13-member ARB with appointees mandated by law. Private voucher schools are even let off the hook on testing by allowing them to give their students different tests than public school students.
Just as important as what is in the bill is what is not.
It seems like common sense to require the people entrusted with educating the children at private voucher schools receiving tax dollars are qualified, licensed professionals. After all, that’s what the law currently requires of our public schools. That’s not currently the case for voucher schools, and that’s not a provision included in AB 1.
We can all see what’s going on here.
School privatization has long been a goal of wealthy right-wing ideologues from Wisconsin and across the country, and taking away our control over our public schools has been in the crosshairs of their efforts.
One Wisconsin Now earlier revealed the $31 million plus propaganda campaign to attack public schools and promote private school vouchers orchestrated by Gov. Walker’s campaign co-chair Michael Grebe and his Milwaukee based Bradley Foundation.
We’ve seen the American Federation for Children, overseen by disgraced former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, spend at least $4.5 million to elect pro-voucher candidates since 2010, including nearly $1 million in 2014 Assembly races alone.
And out-of-state millionaires and billionaires, including heirs to the Wal-Mart and Amway fortunes, consistently make large campaign contributions directly to voucher friendly elected officials.
Setting expectations for the quality of education our kids receive in the schools we pay for is important. It is reasonable to expect consequences if the expectations are not met.
But that’s not what this current proposal from Republicans is intended to do, and that’s why this special interest payoff doesn’t deserve to become law.