By Corey DeAngelis, National Review
Recently, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a bill that would have expanded access to a statewide school-choice program that funds students instead of systems. The governor’s veto protects the K–12 public-school monopoly at the expense of families — and it comes at the tail end of a year in which the public sector repeatedly failed to provide students with adequate in-person services.
Wisconsin families living in Milwaukee and Racine can currently take a portion of the tax dollars earmarked for the children’s education to the private school of their choosing if they earn 300 percent of the federal poverty level or less (about $66,000 for a family of three). But for families living in the rest of the state, that threshold is significantly lower. The bill that Evers blocked, Assembly Bill 59, would have rectified that discrepancy, applying the 300 percent cutoff to the entire state.
These arbitrary eligibility thresholds should not exist at all. All students are guaranteed a taxpayer-funded K–12 education in Wisconsin. Every single family should be able to take their children’s education dollars to the education provider of their choosing. The expansion included in Assembly Bill 59 was a step toward empowering all families while equalizing income-based eligibility across the state. It passed the Wisconsin Assembly by a vote of 60 to 36, and the Senate by a vote of 20 to 12. (Both votes broke down strictly along party lines, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats voting in opposition.) The bill was then vetoed by Evers, and since Republicans are a few votes short of the two-thirds supermajority of both chambers required to override a veto, the matter ended there.
Evers attempted to justify his veto by saying that he “object[s] to diverting resources from school districts to private schools.” But what he fails to realize is that the money at issue doesn’t belong to the public schools in the first place. It would be absurd for anyone to argue that allowing families to choose their grocery store “diverts” funding from Walmart. It’s similarly absurd for the governor to suggest that allowing families to choose their school “diverts” funding from public schools.
Education funding is meant for educating children — not for propping up a particular public institution. Children’s education dollars should follow them to the education provider that best meets their needs, public or private. We should fund students, not systems.
Read more at National Review.
COREY DEANGELIS is the national director of research at the American Federation for Children, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and a senior fellow at the Reason Foundation.