The school voucher movement in Wisconsin goes back more than a decade, around the time millionaires, Dick and Betsy DeVos, and billionaire heirs of Sam Walton, started making political contributions to Republican politicians in the state.
See, the DeVos' and the Walton's were getting tired of personally funding scholarships for kids to go to Christian schools and decided it made a whole lot more sense to use that money to persuade politicians to vote to give public money to send kids to Christian schools instead.
Turns out, Republican politicians were much more thankful for the cash.
It was all about Freedom. (Note: they always capitalize that shit, same for - We the People and Liberty.)
What the Kochs are to ALEC, the DeVos' and Walton's are to school choice. They are the money and influence behind the effort.
Sure, some regular people liked the idea of getting cash to send their kid to parochial schools. Historically however, private elementary school tuition was viewed the same way private colleges were seen - more expensive - but your choice to make on your own dime.
All they needed was a good media campaign and a few willing politicians to show John Q. Public that he was entitled to send his kid to a private school that didn't take standardized tests, hired non-certified teachers and taught kids the dinosaurs walked around Adam and Eve like an episode of the Flintstones.
Of course, that isn't how they worded it - they said parents should have a choice to send their kids to any school they desired. With healthy support from the separatist, home school crowd, that is exactly what they did. Poor families now had the same opportunities as the wealthy to subject their kids to embarrassing uniforms and ancient computers.
No one bought this line harder than the Latino community. (In Mexico, private schools are very popular and not nearly as expensive. There is a strong tradition of private education, particularly among Mexicans, that has carried over in the U.S.)
The whole movement was a sham, a privatization scheme. No one behind it particularly cared if the schools receiving voucher money were functional. To people like Dick and Betsy DeVos, the free market would weed those schools out - eventually.
Who cares about the kids attending them now? That is your problem.
Unfortunately, rising Wisconsin GOP star, Robin Vos, made it his mission to bring vouchers to the city he loves to hate: Racine. He got vouchers expanded to Racine during the unrest of 2011 and their wasn't a thing anyone could about it.
Schools opened and then closed. Teachers went unpaid. They didn't even bother to make the standards remotely the same for vouchers schools. Hell, they didn't even say you had to be an existing school to get voucher money.
The icing on the cake came last year when they passed a private school tax deduction of $4,000 per elementary school child and $10,000 per high school aged child - who needs a voucher?
Of course you had to be a family who had a tax liability - so much for helping poor families.
This week we learned that 75% of kids in the state applying for school vouchers already attended private school. If you read this the way the Siren does - the kids who were going to get voucher money to escape the hell of a failing public school system weren't actually in a failing school system. They got a public subsidy to go to a school they were already in.
That works out really great for them, doesn't it?
We are reminded also of the newest report about Wisconsin's projected budget deficit being even larger than previously thought...and all those private school tax deductions too. It is not just about the biggest cut to education in the country - it is about lost revenue as well.
So let us leave you with a thought about our favorite area voucher school, Shoreland Lutheran High School in Somers (hometown of National RNC Chairman, Reince Priebus). Shoreland is one of those fabled "creationist" schools who teach their kids the earth was created in six days. It would be funny if they weren't getting my money to send kids there to say so.
Upon reading their student handbook it is appears that you cannot be gay and attend their school. They don't come out and say so, but under their nondiscrimination policy, Shoreland states they do not discriminate in the basis of race, color or national origin. They do not mention gender or sexual orientation - and add:
"Shoreland Lutheran reserves the right to refuse enrollment or to disenroll students/families whose beliefs and/or morals are not in line with the Biblical principles of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod."The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod website makes it clear being gay is not okay.
Shoreland is now building a 14,000 sq. ft. "science" wing. Won't someone please start a Satanic voucher school in Wisconsin?