Walker, Darling Flip Flop on Vouchers
Their new message to school choice supporters: Drop dead.
One needs to go back a decade, when Democrats controlled state government, to find a time when school choice had fewer champions in the Capitol.
In crafting his election year budget, Governor Walker blew off longtime supporters in the school choice community. Figuring their support is “baked in,” he rejected overtures aimed at increasing the number of high quality choice options and giving more choice to working class families.
Now comes Senator Alberta Darling, who yesterday told the Wisconsin State Journal she’s prepared to blow up a compromise on choice eligibility that would make families eligible if their income is at or below 300 per cent of the poverty limit.
While the 300 per cent limit already exists in Milwaukee and Racine (approved in 2011 with Senator Darling’s support), she thinks parents elsewhere in Wisconsin should be eligible only if their income is less than 185 per cent of the poverty limit. (Under the 185% limit, a family of four can make up to $51,955 to participate. Raising the income limit to 300% would increase that allowance to $79,900.)
Senator Darling’s disappointing decision has prompted a call to action from School Choice Wisconsin. Today it issued the following to supporters throughout the state:
A 300% threshold would allow working-class families in YOUR communities to access the voucher program…A long-term goal of SCW is to have uniformity between all of Wisconsin’s parental choice programs… [A] consistent income limit across the board is necessary to achieve this. A 300% limit strengthens the school choice movement and helps build the army of school choice supporters who can advocate for positive changes in all the programs.
Governor Walker and Senator Darling have been major beneficiaries of support from the local, state, and national school choice movement. The decision to turn their backs on those supporters is quite a disappointment.
George Mitchell is a former journalist who has held positions in federal, state, and county government and served as a consultant to various governmental and private sector groups.