Answer to school funding crisis: halt vouchers

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has the answer to the school funding crisis: remove the outrageously expensive — and unconstitutional — voucher expansion from the state budget.

“Where’s the uproar and outrage over what will be the demise of public education, and a windfall of taxpayer money for religious schools?” asks FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

“The proposal in the state budget will set up two publicly supported statewide school systems, one of which will not be accountable to the public and whose primary purpose is largely to proselytize students.”

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction on July 1 released estimates of the amount of state aid for school districts for the upcoming school year. More than half (55%) of Wisconsin school districts will receive a decrease in state aid, according to the DPI report.

Under the current budget bill, 234 out of 424 public school districts are estimated to receive state cuts for the 2015-16 school year , yet publicly-funded private school vouchers would expand across the state. The Joint Finance Committee proposal would remove the 1,000 student statewide cap on vouchers. Vouchers in each district would increase at a rate of 1% of a district’s enrolled students each year. After 10 years, there would be no limit.

School districts that would be hit by budget cuts would also lose corresponding state funding for each resident student who receives a voucher to attend a private school. The loss in funding is especially harmful because the overwhelming majority of voucher recipients were already attending private schools. A DPI announcement of statewide voucher schools in May, noted that 85% of student applicants did not attend a public school last year. “This is a barefaced handout to parents seeking public dollars to pay for their children’s parochial schools,” Gaylor said.

FFRF informed key Wisconsin Senators in June that public schools within their districts will suffer under the expansion of vouchers.

“Over the next 10 years, unaccountable church-run schools are going to flourish while our public schools will face a crisis,” added Gaylor.

The Joint Finance Committee budget will now go before the Assembly and Senate.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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