I believe we can all agree that we need to support a strong public education system for ALL our children.
Wisconsin's voucher program is clearly a move to privatize education, support religious schools, and set up our community with a "winners" and "losers" school system. The winners being the strongly supported private schools (religious and for profit), and the losers being the kids in the increasingly underfunded public schools (who pay not only for their education, but also subsidize the voucher system). This is a competitive model that is well understood by business interests. This works well for many things, but is exactly the wrong model for public education. The best public education model recognizes that ALL children deserve an excellent education so that they may reach their full potential in life. This is a collaborative model where the goal is only "winners".
This may all seem like hyperbole, but it is not intended that way. Some facts are below the squiggle.
1) Property taxes will rise - children in the voucher program are not counted in the revenue cap, school aid formula, or the property tax valuation calculation. Same property value divided by less kids means that our public school district's look more "property rich" than they really are, which means that there is a significant reduction in the per child school aid for the kids that currently attend public schools. In addition, the schools have to pay the transportation costs and approximately 38% of the voucher costs directly to the voucher schools, even though they get $0 in state aid for these students. Property taxes have to rise as that is the only way that school districts can pay these "unfunded" state requirements.
2) Children who attend private school (and many of these have never attended public school) will get priority for the limited number of vouchers over other students. Schools choose how many vouchers they give, so they have the ability to only give vouchers to their private school students. Half of the students in Racine's voucher program have NEVER attended a public school.
3) Charter school rule changes SPECIFICALLY PREVENT public school's to place any oversight rules on a charter schools, though they are responsible for their outcomes. Private charter schools will not have this restriction. This is a wide open invitation for private for-profit charter schools to come in. The same voucher rules will apply to these charter schools, so students that attend charter schools will cost the taxpayers just as much as students that attend other voucher schools.
4) No accountability. No basic requirements for teachers. No standardized testing. This sounds like an ONION article, but is sadly true: A man with only Sunday School teaching experience was recently approved to run a voucher school in Racine. We could qualify as voucher teachers.
5) There is a little talked about Special Needs Voucher Program that will be very costly for public schools. This will again transfer a significant amount of money (Tens of thousands of dollars per student), that is not included in the state aid formula, but is charged to the district. Another reason property taxes will rise.
6) The income cap has been raised to about $70,000 for a family of 4, so it is no longer a "low income" program. The governor has already proposed to eliminate the cap entirely.
I can go on and on and on. But I think you get the picture, and can see how this is not about school choice (as we already have an open enrollment program where any student can choose to attend any public school in the state) , but more about opening a spigot of money to private school interests that can pick and choose their students and do not have a mission of educating ALL of the students in the community. The picture is complete when the funding sources for the "school choice" movement are known. Basically people with a financial interest in opening for-profit private schools, and downsizing "government".
This is something I care deeply about, and it is just hard to get the message out that this is not a question of "choice", but rather a question of what responsibilities do schools have when taxpayer (public) dollars are spent for them. Should there be any restrictions or accountability? Are secular private, religious, or for-profit schools in the general public's best interest? Will there be schools that teach Sharia Law? Who will educate those who learn a little slower, who have difficult social situations, who are learning English in school? These children do not end up in the voucher program as voucher schools can easily deflect these children back to public school by claiming "we do not have the services these children need."
This is a simple issue with very complex details. It is difficult to express all of these issues succinctly. Thanks for getting to the bottom of the page.