Dear Wisconsin FFRF'er:
FFRF has asked you earlier this year to contact your state legislators to oppose vouchers. It’s time to act again — putting pressure on your state senator and the Joint Committee on Finance. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's recent budget proposal includes major increases in taxpayer funding to subsidize vouchers for primarily religious schools. The governor's budget includes a $73 million increase for voucher schools and a new $21 million program for a statewide special needs student voucher system. In Milwaukee and Racine, more than 85% of voucher funds go to religious schools.
The expanded voucher program would extend into nine school districts: Beloit, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Sheboygan, Superior, Waukesha and West Allis-West Milwaukee. The budget also would increase voucher payments to private schools already in the program.
The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that the Milwaukee voucher program alone would reach state aid of $194 million for the 2014-15 school year because of greater enrollment and proposed voucher payment increases. Under the terms of Walker's plan, the amount of a school voucher would increase by 8.6 percent for K-8 schooling (up to $7,050) and 21.9 percent for high school students (up to $7,856). Milwaukee Public Schools would see a decrease in aid for each student utilizing vouchers. According to the Fiscal Bureau, this would equate to a $66.7 million reduction in state aid to the Milwaukee school system in 2014-15.
Parents of special needs students have formed a coalition to oppose the creation of vouchers for students with disabilities. Special needs advocates have said private vouchers would take away funding from public school programs and would not provide any assurances that private schools would meet the education needs of students with disabilities, as public schools are mandated to do by federal law.
Supporters of voucher expansion have their eyes on creating a statewide system for funding private schools. Assembly Speaker Robin Voss recently said he would like to see vouchers “exported to the entire state.” Voss stated, “I know there is some resistance in the Senate, but I want school choice for every single child in the state.”
Please feel free to use language from this action alert. Read the op-ed by Senators Fred Risser, Jon Erpenbach and Mark Miller, “Vouchers would hurt Madison schools."
The Wisconsin State Constitution ensures that no citizen may “be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against his consent . . . nor shall any money be drawn from the treasury for the benefit of religious or theological schools.” (Article 1, Section 18)
The state constitution also provides for district schools, “which shall be as nearly uniform as practicable, . . . with no sectarian instruction.” (Article X, Section 3)
Write Letters to the Editor:
Influence public opinion today by writing your local or other weekly or daily newspapers with a letter opposing vouchers! It’s also helpful to use social media, including reader comment sections at online news sites, to post messages in support of Wisconsin’s dedication to its public schools and to the principle that citizens should not be compelled to support religious education.