William Smeltzer: Take educational policy measures out of budget

Dear Editor: All spring, the Joint Finance Committee held listening sessions around Wisconsin. They heard citizens’ overwhelming support for public schools. This support was further demonstrated by the April Marquette poll and many successful school referendums. The citizens spoke — and the panel listened, planning to restore some of the funding cut in the governor’s budget.

Now it is time to to remove education policy measures from the budget.

These are nonfiscal measures for the state, but they have significant fiscal implications for local districts, and combined with the effects of previous cuts, will have a serious impact on many students. Legislators know that this is not the will of the people they represent — their primary responsibility. Legislators may sincerely believe privatizing education will ultimately have better results. Legislators may fear a well-financed primary opponent, or may have been that opponent. But ideology or obligation to outside interests cannot trump the clear instructions from constituents.

I will not reiterate all the arguments against the charter authorizer and voucher expansion proposals in the budget, but 86 percent of state voucher applicants are not public school students. This means that public schools lose revenue without losing the expenses of educating each child. Bills functionally identical to the charter provision have been passed in several states, and have led to a scandalous absence of both educational and fiscal accountability. A bill could surely be crafted that avoided these consequences, but it is not this proposal.

William Smeltzer


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