You know it’s good when WEAC reacts this quickly and harshly.
Assembly Republicans are considering a program that would allow Wisconsin parents to pay for K-12 school expenses — including private school tuition, textbooks and tutoring — with a taxpayer-funded stream of money known in other states as Education Savings Accounts.
The subsidies — now being offered in Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Nevada and Tennessee — have been dubbed the next generation of school vouchers, which allow students to use tax money to attend private schools and have been used in Wisconsin since 1991.
Ron Martin, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, said in a statement Thursday after the Wisconsin State Journal published a story about the lawmakers’ plans, that the programs amount to a “back-door scheme” to take money away from public school funding.
“Education savings accounts literally take money out of our neighborhood public schools and hand it over to subsidize private tuition, with zero accountability,” said Martin. “Politicians who turn their backs on the public schools that provide all children with opportunity in return for campaign contributions from voucher lobbyists had better be ready to look parents in their communities in the eye in the next election and explain why local public schools are cutting teachers and programs, while tax dollars go unaccounted for through private subsidies.”
Here’s one description of what ESAs are. Keep in mind that the details will vary depending on how the state might implement such a thing.
Education savings accounts (ESA) are an innovative way to bring customization to K-12 education. Through an ESA, parents are able to direct their child’s funding to the schools, courses, programs, and services of their choice. Parents are also able to save unused funds for future K-12 and higher education expenses — creating an incentive for parents to judge all K-12 service expenses not only on quality but also on cost. By allowing parents to plan for their child’s unique needs, ESAs create a personal approach to education, where the ultimate goal is maximizing each child’s natural learning abilities.
I would support this for the same reasons I support vouchers. We have decided as a society that it is in the public good for every person to receive an education and that, as a public good, we should all pitch in and pay for it with our taxes. OK, fine. That does not mean that the government needs to pay for it AND run the education delivery system. Just like the state taxpayers pay for transportation but pushes most of that work out to private contractors, the state taxpayers can choose to pay for education but push some of the work out to private education providers. The key is that the money should follow the child. And the people with the most acute vested interest in making sure that money is used to provide the best education possible for the child are the child’s parents. The taxpayers are spending the same money either way. The dispute is over who gets to decide how it is spent for each child. I trust parents a lot more than some DPI bureaucrat or disgruntled mid-level school administrator.