by Colleen Flaherty
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his friends in the GOP-led legislature are at it again. Thanks to Walker’s policies, Wisconsin has had the second highest education cuts in the country, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
On top of that, Walker and his allies expanded the voucher program that gives taxpayer money for students to attend private schools. While the vouchers were sold to voters as “school choice” for low-income families, more than two-thirds of the applicants already attended private school.
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Now, in another push to privatize public education in Wisconsin at the expense of students, a new bill in the state legislature would make it easier to open independent charter schools without community support, input or oversight.
“In another last-minute bait-and-switch, a bill has ballooned overnight that would impact every school district in the state. This opens the door for additional authorizers of privately run charters that divert state school aid from neighborhood public schools,” said Betsy Kippers, Racine teacher and president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council.
The proposed bill — which would go into effect as soon as next year — would allow a charter school that reaches a certain benchmark of student achievement to open up to two additional schools per year without input from local school boards or voters.
Wisconsin is already home to more than 200 community-run public charter schools that are approved by the school district. This bill attempts to expand independent charter schools, which receive substantial public funding despite being privately run with no accountability to a local school board.
“Wisconsin is a leader in the nation when it comes to publicly run charter schools – this bill dismantles a highly successful, nationally recognized model in charter schools that is built on local control,” said Kippers.
Like many of the pushes to privatize education, this comes straight from American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) playbook. In other states that have expanded privately run charter schools in this manner, national franchises are the beneficiaries of tax dollars, profiting off of public schools.
In the end, Kippers says that Walker and the Wisconsin GOP are less concerned with students and more concerned about their donors, more than 60 percent of whom come from outside Wisconsin.
“This is a back-door maneuver by politicians who are beholden to campaign contributors to force privatization on our communities and citizens don’t want it.”