My column for the West Bend Daily News is online.
Burke takes a stance on education
She shows why she shouldn’t be governor
Mary Burke is finally starting to peek out from under her media-enabled “generic anti-Walker candidate” persona and offer a sliver of actual policy positions. Last week she let us know that she completely supports the controversial Common Core standards and completely opposes statewide school choice.
Given Burke’s stint as a member of the Madison School Board and her demonstrated adherence to the agenda of the teachers union, her support of Common Core comes as no surprise. The problem for Burke is that opposition to Common Core is not a conservative vs. liberal or Democrat vs. Republican issue. The opposition cuts across ideological and partisan lines. It is not an issue that polls highly when people are asked to state important issues, but the people who oppose it are passionate.
Gov. Scott Walker has stated that he would like the Legislature to take up the issue of Common Core in the next session with the goal of replacing the federal Common Core standards with a Wisconsin version. If Walker supports replacing Common Core with a state standard, Burke must support keeping Common Core. It is a slightly risky position for her to take a strong stance on in what is billed to be a very close election.
On the issue of school choice, Burke is taking an even greater risk. Her stated position is that she supports keeping school choice in Milwaukee and Racine, but opposes it as a statewide program. One might remember that Walker and the Republicans made a tepid effort to expand school choice a couple of years ago, but capped it at a thousand students statewide.
The problem for Burke on this issue is two-fold. First, school choice enjoys strong support in Wisconsin. This makes sense since Wisconsin was a pioneer in school choice and has it in Milwaukee for a generation. It is not new and Wisconsinites have watched the school choice program in Milwaukee thrive for the benefit of thousands of kids.
A Public Opinion Strategies poll from last year shows that a full 61 percent of Wisconsin citizens support school choice. More troubling for Burke is that the same poll shows that school choice enjoys 83 percent support among blacks and Hispanics. Burke is already having trouble getting the Democratic base excited about her campaign. Angering a large contingent of the Democratic base by taking a strident stance against school choice would seem unwise.
Burke’s second problem on the issue of school choice is that her position is utterly incoherent. Burke opposes school choice because she says that it is “a drain on our public school system at a point in which we have very, very limited resources.”
On its face, that argument is utter rubbish. The money that follows a child to a choice school does not cost the public schools a dime. It is money that the public schools never receive, but it is also a child that they never have to spend a dime to educate. It is like when you go to McDonald’s for coffee instead of Starbucks. Your choice is not a drain on Starbucks. You were never their customer.
Further, if Burke believes that school choice is bad public policy and a drain on public education, then why would she want to keep it going in Milwaukee and Racine? What sense does it make for Burke to support continuing a policy that she believes is detrimental to education at all? And why would she only continue it in cities with large minority populations? The answers are as troubling as they are cynical. Burke has also read the polls and sees the overwhelming support for school choice in those cities. She is trying to split the baby by appeasing minority voters in Milwaukee and Racine while appeasing white liberals in the rest of the state.
It is good to see Burke finally taking a firm stance on some issues. Her choices shine a light on more of the reasons why she is not equipped to be the governor of Wisconsin.
(Owen Robinson’s column runs Tuesdays in the Daily News.)