My last couple of reports on Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget have focused on public education. A large element of the Governor’s changes involve expanding school vouchers. First, Gov. Walker wants to expand school choice beyond the current districts of Milwaukee and Racine, adding nine more districts over the next two years.
Governor Walker also wants to increase the value of the voucher. Currently, private and parochial schools receive $6,400 in taxpayer money for each voucher student, but the Governor would increase that to more than $7,000 for grades K-8 and $7,800 for high school students.
Next, Governor Walker wants to create a special needs scholarship program, which is vouchers for special education students. That would be a statewide expansion.
This isn’t the first time Governor Walker has moved to expand school choice. In his first budget the Governor expanded choice to Racine and also raised the income levels to allow middle income families to receive vouchers.
Governor Walker is clearly a believer in school choice, and school choice supporters clearly believe in him. A recent report (http://www.wisdc.org/pr040513.php#tbl1) from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign tracks the amount of money that voucher supporters have spent on Wisconsin elections in recent years. Governor Walker received the most money by far, receiving $1.2 million since 2003. Most of that money came during his recall election when contributors could donate as much as they wanted to. It should also be noted that many of these donors support Governor Walker for other reasons besides school choice, they donate to all manner of conservative candidates.
The report highlights what most following the issues have known for years, school choice supporters are twice as likely to be out of state millionaires and their money goes to support Republicans or conservative candidates for the Supreme Court. The biggest names on the list include the heirs to Amway and Walmart. There are some Democrats (primarily from Milwaukee) who have received money from school choice groups, but they have not received the $10,000 minimum since 2003 to make it on the Democracy Campaign’s list.
School choice supporters say their money is used to balance out the contributions of public teacher unions, who for obvious reasons oppose school choice.