The Privatization of Public Education is Failing Our Kids

Source: Congressman Mark Pocan, The Progressive, October 25, 2016

Wisconsin now has more than 32,000 students statewide enrolled in its voucher plan, even though approximately three-quarters of the new students receiving that public money were already attending private schools. Now they are just doing so on the taxpayer’s dime. States across the country are draining funds from public schools that educate the vast majority of our children and diverting it to a few students in private schools. And while state governments are spending millions of taxpayer dollars on these schools, there is virtually no proof that voucher programs are effectively educating our kids. These schools have far less accountability and lower standards than public schools. … The GAO found that participation in taxpayer-funded voucher programs has more than doubled in the last five years, from 70,000 to 147,000 students. The bill to taxpayers has grown from $400 million five years ago to $859 million today. It seems to me that before you dramatically expand a program the way vouchers have ballooned, you might first want to know if they are somewhat effective at teaching our kids. … The GAO report also found that some taxpayer-funded voucher schools do not require the same teaching credentials as public schools. The report confirmed that many taxpayer-funded voucher programs do not require teachers to meet minimum standards for teacher preparation, further calling into question the legitimacy of these programs. Public schools are rightly required to educate all our children. Yet many voucher schools, according to the report, are able to cherry-pick which students they prefer. They could refuse to take in a child who might cost more to educate, such as a child with disabilities. Advocates for people with disabilities, including the ACLU and Disability Rights Wisconsin, have raised concerns that Wisconsin’s school voucher program, either tacitly or explicitly, allows voucher schools to discriminate against students with disabilities in their admission policies. Worse still, many of these programs cannot even meet the basic needs of students with disabilities who do enroll in their programs, leaving students and their families struggling to find appropriate educational services which would have been otherwise guaranteed in a public school. …


Opinion: Stop the privatization of public education
Source: Congressman Mark Pocan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 25, 2015

…And as someone who cares deeply about the strength of public education, I am dismayed at the recent attempts by Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ron Johnson to use Wisconsin’s education system as a political poker chip by expanding and promoting the state’s taxpayer-funded voucher program.

The latest taxpayer-funded voucher expansion proposal, included in Walker’s proposed budget, would cut almost $50 million in funding for public school districts over the next two years and cost taxpayers $800 million over the next 10 years….In Wisconsin, approximately 79% of the students who received a taxpayer-subsidized voucher in 2013 were already attending private schools. This means taxpayer dollars are not being used to advance public education, but instead are being used to subsidize the education of a small number of students already enrolled in private schools at the expense of students in public schools in an attempt to further privatize education. Not only do voucher schools exhaust needed resources in public education, these schools also fail to serve all students. In Wisconsin, advocates for people with disabilities, including the ACLU and Disability Rights Wisconsin, have raised concerns that Wisconsin’s school choice program, either tacitly or explicitly, allows voucher schools to discriminate against students with disabilities in their admission policies.

What Gov. Scott Walker is about to do to Wisconsin’s public schools
Source: Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, Answer Sheet blog, July 8, 2015

…. What’s in that budget is deep cause for concern for Wisconsin’s public education system, as Bob Peterson, founder of the Rethinking Schools magazine and former president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, explains in this post, which appeared on his Education for Democracy blog and which I am publishing with permission…..

For Wisconsin’s schools, the budget is a blueprint for abandoning public education. In Milwaukee, in addition to insufficient funding, the budget includes a “takeover” plan that increases privatization and decreases democratic control of the city’s public schools. The budget was passed by the Republican-controlled Senate a few minutes before midnight Tuesday, with all Democrats and one Republican voting “no.” The Assembly is expected to pass the budget and send it to Walker by the end of the week. The attack on the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) is in the context of a frontal assault on public education across the state. The budget cuts $250 million from the University of Wisconsin system, holds overall K-12 funding flat in the first year with modest increases in the second (which, given inflation, means cuts). And while programs promoting privately run charters are expanded, the budget eliminates Chapter 220 — a metropolitan-wide program designed to reduce racial segregation in public schools and improve equal opportunity for students of color. The budget is also expanding the statewide voucher program, under which tax dollars are funneled into private, overwhelmingly religious schools. (The program is modeled after Milwaukee’s private school voucher program which began in 1990 and which now includes 112 schools and 25,000 students.) The “takeover” plan for Milwaukee, where nearly two-thirds of the state’s African-American population live, was proposed by two suburban legislators, Sen. Alberta Darling (R) and Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R). Because the plan was inserted into the budget rather than proposed in a separate bill, there was never a public hearing…..

Complaint: Milwaukee Vouchers Segregate Students With Disabilities
Source: Nirvi Shah, Education Week, June 8, 2011

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have filed a complaint that accuses the state of Wisconsin and some private schools that accept vouchers of creating a system of segregated public schools. Data reported by the private schools shows that 1.6 percent of the students they enroll using vouchers have disabilities, while almost 20 percent of Milwaukee public schools have special needs. The schools that accept vouchers had to participate in state testing for the first time this school year. The data reported by those schools was one of the catalysts for filing a complaint, said Karyn Rotker, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU in Wisconsin.

Choice may not improve schools, study says / Report on MPS comes from longtime supporter of plan
Source: By Alan J. Borsuk, Journal Sentinel(WI), Oct. 24, 2007

A study being released today suggests that school choice isn’t a powerful tool for driving educational improvement in Milwaukee Public Schools. But more surprising than the conclusion is the organization issuing the study: the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank that has supported school choice for almost two decades, when Milwaukee became the nation’s premier center for trying the idea. The institute is funded in large part by the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, an advocate of school choice.