WI Gov. Walker delivers a blow to public education, takes aim at schools and working families . . . again


by Félix Pérez

Not satisfied with his radical crusade over the last two years to strip funding from public education and silence the voice of workers and their families, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker issued a budget proposal yesterday that drains money from neighborhood schools to expand private school vouchers and flat-lines funding for public school students.

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Walker is proposing increasing by at least nine percent taxpayer funding provided to unaccountable private and religious schools participating in the 20 plus-year voucher experiment that has failed to raise student achievement. By comparison, his budget freezes education resources available to neighborhood public schools by providing no increase to school revenue caps.

While Walker claims he is increasing funding for public schools, a closer look at his budget proposal reveals the proposed new state dollars outside of revenue caps are dedicated to performance, from rewards for high-performing schools to resources for student testing and a new teacher evaluation system.

Educators aren’t being fooled by Walker’s slogans and public relations blitz.

Mary Bell, a junior high library media specialist and former high school English teacher, called Walker’s budget a “clear example of how far the governor intends to go to dismantle public education in our state.”

Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the leading voice for the state’s 865,000 public school students and educators, added:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker used his 2013-15 budget address to spin phrases designed to create an illusion that his plans for education are in the best interest of citizens. Parents, teachers, education support professionals, school board members and administrators see past the lip-service and recognize that flat-lining public school funding while at the same time expanding taxpayer funding for private schools will harm neighborhood public schools.

Adding to the financial squeeze neighborhood schools face because of the expansion of private school vouchers and cuts directed by Walker in his last budget, the governor is also rejecting an increase in the revenues public schools are allowed to raise from state and local property taxpayers.

WI vouchers graphicDeb Sybell, a WEAC legislative specialist, said Walker’s proposal sets a “very dangerous precedent,” adding, “The governor’s budget will end up eroding local control and the ability of school boards to meet the unique educational needs of its students.”

Private voucher schools, said Sybell, unlike public schools, can and do turn away enrolled students after taking taxpayer money, and there is no consistent evidence that vouchers, which drain scared resources from the students who need them most, improve student achievement.

Steve Strieker, a Janesville teacher and blogger, cautioned Wisconsinites not to be taken in by slick voucher marketing campaigns cloaked in free-market rhetoric and funded by the billionaire Koch brother’s Americans for Prosperity. “For the free market enthusiasts, the free market fairy will work its invisible hand magic and solve many of the problems plaguing our public schools by expanding privately-run, publicly-funded voucher schools.

“For those of us in public education, we know better. There is no magic in solving the complex socioeconomic problems dragging down too many of our students and schools.”

Reader Comments

  1. Wisconsin residents had their chance to get rid of this cancer. God only knows what they were thinking when they voted to keep him in office. As a resident of IL even I was looking forward to his recall. Hey – misery does love company!

  2. How in hell did this fool get elected and why is he still governor?? Are the people in WI stupid or an evil as he is? Public tax dollars should only go to public schools, not private schools! Private schools play by their own rules. Standards and expectations aren’t consistent and kids can be dismissed. Teacher salaries are not adequate either.
    Hello Wisconsin, you are about to get screwed again by your dictator governor!!! Isn’t much different than Blago!

  3. Our situation isn’t terribly complicated. What the middle class did to the poor, the rich are now doing to the middle class. We the People were divided, probably conquered. Forgive my lack of empathy, but every step of the way, starting with Thompson, it was the middle class that made the political decisions. Their votes determined the politicians and policies that we’ve had. Every step of the way, middle class workers had/have the numbers and means to determine our politics and policies. Middle class workers have the ability to bring the entire state to a standstill. Chances are, they’ll just re-elect Walker and continue grumbling.

  4. It seems to me that information like this is not being adequately publicized. I would like to see the leadership of the NEA (and the AFT, for that matter) taking developments like this to the American people and explaining the issues and who the players are, discussing their possible motives, presenting related data/information, and projecting possible outcomes for our society if the privatization of our educational system and institutions continues and increases. Professional educators should be seeing their leadership on the Sunday morning news shows; shows like Morning Joe, late night “entertainment” shows (e.g., Stewart, Colbert, Letterman, Leno); and in op ed pieces in major newspapers. Emails to the membership are important, but more needs to be done. Now.

  5. This fool wants to take away money from public schools and give it to private schools?
    I guess he favors education only for those who can afford private schools and leave the rest of the kids in overcrowded classrooms.

  6. It seems this article was written by a union official who really only cares about his paycheck, not the quality of education. Any teacher who thinks it is okay to close a school to go protest is in the wrong business.

    1. You’re correct. If schools close so that teachers can protest, who would your babysitter be for that day? Seriously, if you think it is bad for a school to be closed for a day or two, wait until public schools are all closed and you as an individual have to pay for your child’s private school fees…because that is where this is all heading.

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