Twenty-Five Years of School Privatization, Twenty-Five Years of Failure

Walker Campaign Co-Chair Grebe’s Bradley Foundation Remains Central in Unaccountable, Underperforming Privatization Schemes

MADISON, Wis. — Out-of-state backers of the failed 25-year school privatization racket will be descending upon Madison today for what will likely be among many events designed to “commemorate” the quarter-century failed school privatization experiment in Wisconsin. The event is being hosted by the Federalist Society with a featured speaker from the Goldwater Institute, both of which have received huge financial support from the pro-privatization Bradley Foundation, which is headed by Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign co-chair, Michael Grebe.

“On its silver anniversary, the Wisconsin school privatization experiment is the gold standard for failure and lack of accountability,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive. “But that won’t stop its champions like the Bradley-funded propaganda machine, which has left no stone unturned, and it seems, almost no right wing organization unfunded in its quest to foist this failed education privatization scheme on Wisconsin.”

Both the Federalist Society and the Goldwater Institute have been financed by the Bradley Foundation over the years. The Federalist Society has received more than $4.5 million, while the Goldwater Institute has only benefitted from more than $200,000, but its president, Darcy Olsen received a $250,000 check in 2014 as a winner of a “Bradley Prize.”

Research in 2013 from One Wisconsin Now revealed a web of right-wing groups are part of a $31 million plus propaganda campaign paid for by Bradley pushing a massive privatization of public education in Wisconsin. Walker has returned the favor to his campaign co-chair, pouring even more money into the school privatization effort, expanding it statewide in his proposed 2015-17 budget and doing nothing to create accountability to protect students, parents and taxpayers.

View our report, P is for Payoff, here.

Wisconsin’s privatization scheme was implemented after the Wisconsin Supreme Court narrowly ruled the program constitutional, shortly after the addition of deciding vote Justice Jon Wilcox. Wilcox’s campaign was subsequently fined by election regulators for colluding with an independent group and his campaign manager was barred from politics for five years. The fine was the largest ever issued by state regulators at the time.

Wisconsin taxpayers will have already spent nearly $2 billion on the private school voucher program at the same time K-12 public schools in Wisconsin have been subjected to the largest cuts in state history.

“The future of public education in Wisconsin is hanging in the balance in the face of the Bradley-funded privatization propaganda campaign,” said Ross. “Scott Walker, Robin Vos and the Republican legislature are starving our public schools for campaign cash and teaching our children a painful civics lesson about who pulls the string of power in Wisconsin.”

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