State Senator Tim Cullen is one of Wisconsin's finest. He consistently provides reasoned, historical perspective on state matters. This is Sen. Cullen's finely-crafted essay on the latest voucher proposal being pushed through the state budget bill.
Last week, I expressed my extreme disappointment when
the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee voted along party lines to
create a statewide unaccountable school voucher program.
Make no mistake – this plan creates two separate school systems in Wisconsin, both paid for
In 1954, late Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Earl Warren said,
“Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” His words hold
While the agreement creates a 500-student cap during the program’s first
year and a 1,000-student cap in subsequent years, the cap could be
lifted in the future or may be line-item vetoed by the governor. The
ultimate goal of voucher supporters is not to open the voucher program
to 500 or 1,000 students, but an unrestricted expansion of vouchers.
The private school voucher effort is a political movement, not an
educational movement. It is a top-down movement funded by tens of millions of dollars in
out-of-state campaign contributions and the hiring of several
The voucher expansion is not just a loss for public education, but also
for state taxpayers like you and me.
Governor Walker and legislative Republicans are creating a second
statewide school system funded by taxpayers, yet this voucher system
will provide no transparency or accountability when it comes to how
those taxpayer dollars are being spent.
Instead of creating a two-tiered school system and diminishing our
public schools, we should be recommitting to public education.
The problem with public education test scores and graduation rates lies
with the lives students are forced to live the seventeen hours per day
they are not in school. Far too many children live in disruptive homes
with no discipline, no encouragement, no curfews, and poor nutrition.
When they arrive at school, they are unprepared to learn. The political
voucher movement points the finger at public schools for these problems,
which is not a fair assessment.
There is no evidence that private schools, which are able to cherry pick
the students they will allow to enroll, can do anything better regarding
these seventeen hours that students are not in school.
Parents in Wisconsin have every right to send their children to private
schools or to home school them, but taxpayers should not be required
to pay that cost.
Despite such a dramatic change in the Republicans’ voucher expansion
proposal, all of this damage to public education is buried in the state
budget bill, with no separate statewide public hearings on these
To paraphrase Beloit Memorial High School principal Tom Johnson, our
public school teachers, principals, and administrators have given too
much sweat equity, school pride, and hometown devotion to allow
legislative leaders to diminish their work in favor of an unaccountable
privatization of our school system.
I believe there is a chance that the governor's new voucher expansion
plan could be changed before the budget is passed. I assure you that I
will be working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to try to
stop this unfair voucher plan.