This week in Wisconsin, Republicans and their best friends, a.k.a. lobbyists, went into a back room to work out a budget deal this week. I bet you can guess who the big losers are again… Wisconsin’s residents.
Of course, what budget from the GOP would be complete without an expansion.of school vouchers statewide. School vouchers, the GOP’s educational obsession. Oh, they included that in exchange for a modest per-pupil spending increase for public school students of around $150 per student.
To Scott Walker and other Republican beneficiaries of big-time campaign spending from school-choice groups, it is very important to get a deal on vouchers. Voucherizing public education is a conservative mission nationwide If Scott Walker can say he busted public employee unions AND siphoned public-school money into private schools, he will definitely look like a hero to the public education hating base of the GOP.
Before I go too far and bash every GOP lawmaker in the state, it should be know that a few key Republicans in some of the smaller, rural districts in our Legislature were not completely sold on school voucher expansion. For one thing, The current budget offered no increase in per-pupil spending, and a voucher program added to the problem, draining money from public schools to subsidize private-school kids’ tuition.
In rural districts with low enrollment, the draining of money from public schools to subsidize private school tuition may easily mean the shuttering of a school, or at a minimum the gutting of every extracurricular program in the school, be it musicals, friday night football, etc.
Because of the small fight put up by those more rural representatives, the GOP lawmakers and the school choice lobby went behind closed doors to work on a deal. The deal they came up with is a giant win for Scott Walker and the school-choice lobby, and a big, big loss for public education, the poor and the middle class in Wisconsin.
Republican holdouts including Mike Ellis and Luther Olsen seem to have accepted an increase of $150 in funding per pupil in exchange for taking vouchers statewide. Let us not forget that the per-pupil cut in the last Walker budget was $575 per student, so this small increase does NOTHING to improve what has already been lost.
It is estimated that the statewide voucher expansion will ultimately drain $1.9 billion out of the public school system every year. EVERY YEAR. Let me repeat that one more time… EVERY YEAR. That’s a pretty bad trade for a one-time increase that makes up for a little less than one-fourth of last year’s cut.
This new budget is a bad deal on multiple levels, but this obsession with school choice vouchers is ridiculous. Vouchers are a bad, bad deal. Public education is part of the foundation this country is built on. We cannot privitize everything and expect this state and this country to prosper. The countries with the best economies in the world have well funded, robust public education systems. If we continue to kill public education in this state and in this country we will continue to lose.