Nicholas Kelly
Op Ed

Democrats Were For Uncoupling Voucher Funding, Why The Change?

School choice groups asks why Dems ran away from proposal to separate funding from property taxes.

By - Feb 20th, 2024 10:40 am
St. Augustine Preparatory School classroom. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

St. Augustine Preparatory School classroom. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

In a piece entitled “Assembly Committee Votes To Overhaul Voucher School Funding,” reporter Baylor Spears described Democratic opposition to Assembly Bill 900, a bill that would finance Wisconsin’s parental choice programs with state taxes and “decouple” those programs from local property taxes.

“Democratic lawmakers expressed frustrations about the Republican bill on Wednesday for coming so late in the legislative session and for neglecting to consider how Wisconsin’s education system is funded more broadly,” wrote Spears.

Spears quoted Rep. Kristina Shelton (D-Green Bay): “It is not possible to talk about shifting such a significant component of funding for some schools without having an understanding of the larger picture. It’s like taking one piece of a puzzle away without being able to see what the whole puzzle is supposed to look like.” Rep. Shelton said she was “disappointed at the lack of [bipartisan] collaboration on this bill.”

But Shelton was for it before she was against it.

Omitted from Spears’ account: Four months earlier, Shelton joined thirteen other Democrats in sponsoring Assembly Bill 516, a bill that would fully fund parental choice programs with state taxes and decouple those programs from the property tax.

In other words, AB 516 and its Senate companion SB 503 would do the same thing as AB 900.

Here’s the proof: The Department of Public Instruction fiscal note to AB 516/SB 503 states, in part, “If this bill became law, the total cost of payments made to private parental choice schools…would be borne directly by the state.”

Registering last year in support of AB 516/SB 503 were the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC, the state’s teacher union) and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin (LWVWI). Yet, WEAC registered against AB 900 and the LWVWI filed a statement saying it “cannot support” AB 900.

So, not just Rep. Shelton and her Democratic colleagues, but also WEAC and LWVWI were for decoupling before they were against it. The concern about a bill coming “so late” in the session is disingenuous.

They are not the only ones who have flipped.

Spears reports that “Governor Evers has already signaled his opposition” to AB 900. She fails to report that he took the exact opposition position as DPI Superintendent when he backed decoupling the Milwaukee Parental Choice program, stating that it was a state program that should be paid for with state dollars. The MPCP will be fully decoupled next year.

Decoupling provides more state aid to 404 of the 421 public school districts and provides significant property tax relief to Wisconsin taxpayers outside Milwaukee. Why make them wait?

Nicholas Kelly is the President of School Choice Wisconsin

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Categories: Education, Op-Ed, Politics

4 thoughts on “Op Ed: Democrats Were For Uncoupling Voucher Funding, Why The Change?”

  1. Ryan Cotic says:

    Seems like they are all frauds!

  2. dave53718 says:

    Here’s an idea: Get rid of voucher schools altogether. Why should our tax dollars fund private education?

  3. Mingus says:

    My parents and church community saw that I had a religious value based education the old fashion way. Since educating their children in the Catholic religious tradition was a priority, they paid for it themselves and did not approach the government for a handout. Also when religious schools recruit a large number of students who do not share the deep religious faith of the school, they end up compromising and abandoning some of the the religious traditions and rigor that members of that church community expect.

  4. Gordon Skare says:

    Not all frauds, just those that finally approve a map when backed into a corner after 13 years of ignoring their constituents.

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