So much bad was packed into the 2013-15 budget headed to Governor Scott Walker’s desk that we should start over. From underfunding public schools to expanding the use of taxpayer dollars to fund unaccountable and under-performing private schools, the budget is just full of legislation that is ideologically driven, fiscally irresponsible, and educationally unproven.
With one party control of the Legislature and the Governor’s office the budget will pass. In the name of good government and fairness, however, Gov. Walker can at least use his veto pen to make parts of this flawed budget better.
At that witching hour between bar time and breakfast, last week, Republicans slipped in limits on the public’s understanding of how schools perform. The budget item in question stops the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) from releasing selective data on individual voucher schools unless the private schools agree. DPI, under the change, could only release data on all voucher schools as to how well they are doing.
That would prevent parents and researchers from getting an early look at student scores as well as potentially a number of other records, such as how much money the schools have been paid, complaints that have been filed against them, lists of board members, and financial audits.
We view the last-minute provision as a bad deal for Wisconsin on a number of fronts. It is yet another non-fiscal item that shouldn’t be in the budget. At the very least it deserved a public hearing, as did the move to expand vouchers statewide. More importantly, the public’s ability to scrutinize how private schools spend taxpayer money must always be protected. How private schools do their job is just as important as how public schools do theirs and so is our access to that information
Lawmakers were wrong to sneak this item into the budget. The change itself is just bad public policy and continues to give an unfair advantage to schools in the voucher program. These legislators put politics above education and basic fairness and Gov. Walker, with a stroke of his veto pen, should make sure that accountability and transparency apply equally.
We hope this travesty is at the top of his veto list.