The Contrarian

Evers Backs Off On Killing Vouchers

Governor admits it can’t be done. His own DPI data shows why it shouldn’t be done.

By - Jan 29th, 2019 02:12 pm
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Gov. Tony Evers greets members of the Assembly and Senate after giving his first State of the State address in Madison, Wisconsin, at the state Capitol building on Jan. 22, 2019. Photo by Emily Hamer/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Gov. Tony Evers greets members of the Assembly and Senate after giving his first State of the State address in Madison, Wisconsin, at the state Capitol building on Jan. 22, 2019. Photo by Emily Hamer/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Earlier this month Chris Rochester of the MacIver Institute noted the post-election reversal of Governor Tony Evers on a campaign pledge to “phase out vouchers.”

So it was not necessarily surprising that the governor avoided that issue in his State of the State speech last week.

As the Governor told Mike Gousha following his November 6 election, “We have 30,000 kids” in school choice and ending it “can’t happen.”

Gousha framed his question by noting that new “report cards” from Evers’ DPI showed Milwaukee choice and charter schools outranking traditional MPS schools. That bears repeating…the report cards were from Evers’ Department of Public Instruction. Given that source, even rabid opponents of letting parents choose schools for their children have been quiet in the wake of the DPI report cards.

The DPI rankings are not the only news that has school choice opponents on their heels. An editorial in the Racine Journal Times has exposed the fallacy behind a phony scheme to use property tax bills to illustrate the supposed extra cost of school choice programs. Researchers at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty and at School Choice Wisconsin have debunked these claims on multiple occasions. Expect additional analysis on this matter to be forthcoming from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

The slow but relentless growth of the statewide choice program has the most significant implications for supporters and opponents of choice. What’s happening politically is that a statewide base of support is growing.  Increasingly, choice will be less of a Milwaukee/Racine issue and more of a Wisconsin issue. (Regrettably, the income threshold for eligibility remains far below that which prevails in Milwaukee and Racine. And it will be several years before the enrollment cap comes off.)

Credit for the statewide program goes largely to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. In the 2013-15 legislative session Governor Scott Walker submitted a long list of choice schemes so flawed they were dead on arrival in a Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee. At the 11th hour of budget negotiations in 2013, Fitzgerald’s emissaries to Walker (the late Mike Ellis and Luther Olsen) floated the statewide program — however limited — as a compromise to help Walker save face.

School choice supporters, while frustrated with Governor Walker’s tepid leadership on program expansion and financing, are now in a stronger position than they were eight years ago. They have growing evidence of program success and a gradually broadening base of political support. While this of course won’t stop dogmatic opponents from trying to use the upcoming budget process to chip away at choice and charter schools, Evers himself has sent signals that it will be a struggle. Wisconsin parents have a GOP legislature, and growing evidence that vouchers work, to thank for that.

2 thoughts on “The Contrarian: Evers Backs Off On Killing Vouchers”

  1. Richard Marx says:

    Conservative lawmakers along with some State and Federal ludges who creatively fabricate new legal interpretations of statutes and laws and have been able to legalize government aid for religion. If the church congregations who have schools who receive State funding choose not to use their funding to support their educational institutions, why did is all of a sudden become the obligation of the government to fund these sectarian education programs?

  2. Thomas Sepllman says:

    When OH when will the simple truth be made. Choice / Private Schools have parents who at least have the ability to meet deadlines and the like. That always leaves those who are choosing Public School (even after hearing about how terrible public schools are) and those whose parents, parent, foster parent are doing good to keep a roof over their heads. On top of that the amount of trauma suffered by the children left is IGNORED at a cost to the State of an extra Billion dollars a year in prison cost and spending more money on prisons than on our universities.

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