The most effective argument against expanding Wisconsin’s statewide voucher program is how much it could cost, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke said Monday.
“We have to get out of the ideological warfare on this (issue) and let’s just talk dollars and cents, which resonates with just about everyone,” Burke said.
Burke’s comments were made to attendees of an invitation-only panel discussion at UW-Madison. About 40 people attended the event, which included National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen García. The discussion was moderated by Wisconsin Education Association Council president Betsy Kippers.
Burke pointed to a $1.2 billion projected total annual cost of the voucher system if it expanded, which she said would likely be at the expense of programs and teachers in public schools.
“We’re all smart enough to realize that if there’s a certain amount of funding that is going to the voucher program, unless the taxes are raised to pay for that or it comes from another part of the budget, it’s going to come from the public schools,” Burke said.
Notice that Burke is talking to a crowd packed with public school advocates, so she talks about what she thinks is the best way to combat school choice without leaving any room for anyone who supports school choice.
But to her point… the financial argument always falls flat for me. Yes, if the state sends money to a choice school because a kid opts to attend it, those dollars are going to be taken from the public school. But also, the PUBLIC SCHOOL DOESN’T HAVE TO EDUCATE THE KID. When a kid goes to a choice school, the public school district incurs zero cost to educate that kid. And the voucher funded by the taxpayers is less than what it would take to educate that kid in the public schools.
Here’s what we have when kids use the school choice program: taxpayers spend less; public schools have no cost; child receives an education more to the family’s liking. Who loses here?
But that’s just it. Lefties don’t oppose school choice because of the financials, educational rigor, or anything related to what’s best for the kid. They oppose it because it decreases the market share of a government institution. And we can’t have that.