Gov. Walker should veto provision to hide voucher school records

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.


  • Aaron says:

    Wow, what a wonderful exercise on how biased one can be. I assume you understand that WI constitution allows non-budget items in the bi-annual budget correct? Your fellow libs have been doing if for years and years. This is one of the most fiscally responsible budgets this state has had in a very long time. Im just disappointed it didnt go further.

  • Tom Beebe says:

    First things first. This is a blog. A blog is a place for people to express their opinions. Opinions, by definition, express a person’s bias. Hence, a blog is a place for all of us to express our biases … including you, which you have done.

    That argument is settled.

    I do think I have a fairly good grasp of the state constitution. I’m not sure what you say is true … that the constitution allows non-budget items in the budget. Seems silly, but for the sake of your argument I’ll yield to you on that point. Actually, I’m not sure the constitution addresses or even cares about it.

    The important point is the common-sense one that the budget should be “clean” and deal with how the state collects and spends $70 billion. The more it is weighed down with non-budget items — like the ideologically driven, fiscally unsound, and educationally unproven crap in the one the Governor signed — the harder it is to vote for or against it or even understand it.

    OK, that’s my opinion or, excuse me, my bias. More important is that the non-partisan, highly-respected Legislative Fiscal Bureau every two years pours over the budget that comes from the Governor and lets the Joint Finance Committee know which parts of it are not about the budget. That committee …. or, this time around, the all-powerful co-chairs — decided they weren’t going to play by those rules.

    What we got was, even in the opinion of some Republicans, a politically driven document that was more about pleasing high-paying political donors than delivering needed goods and services to the people of Wisconsin.

    Finally, your infatuation with this “fiscally responsible budget” and “disappointment it didn’t go further.” Is you infatuation with the fact the Republicans actually put into the bill the ability to create a structural deficit, which this budget does? Or, are you disappointed that the budget didn’t put us even further in debt, which this budget does? Maybe you want public schools’ ability to provide educational opportunities to 870,000 public school children reduced even further, because that’s what this budget does while giving away the farm to private, unaccountable schools in the voucher scheme. Again, that’s what this budget does. Thanks in large part to the national economic recovery. This budget uses Wisconsin’s piece of that recovery to provide a minimal tax cut for all of us (although if you are wealthy enough, it is significant) while our infrastructure crumbles and public safety.

    There you go, that’s my opinion …. my bias. It has nothing to do with me being a lib — please, can we get beyond that silliness (it is so Charlie Sykesish and I’m not really offended) — but everything to do with what the budget says or doesn’t say and what Republicans did or didn’t do.

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