The Freedom From Religion Foundation just posted a timely message, "V(ouch)ers hurt our public schools," on a billboard at the corner of 405 S. Park St. and West Washington Avenue in Madison, Wis.
Although the message is "punny," what's at stake is no laughing matter. FFRF seeks to draw taxpayer and Joint Committee on Finance attention to the dangers of Gov. Scott Walker's unprecedented proposal to remove the cap on statewide voucher enrollment.
"Unfortunately, Wisconsin is ground zero in the assault upon our public schools," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.
Under Walker's budget proposal, more than half of Madison public school students and more than 40 percent of students statewide, would be encouraged to leave public schools to attend private, mostly parochial schools, plundering thousands of dollars per student from public schools.
Walker's previously expanded statewide voucher system has resulted in a situation in which 100 percent of voucher schools are Christian and 73 percent of students attend Catholic schools.
The billboard, which went up late yesterday and will stay up for a month, follows a two-week blitz of television advertising by the Madison-based national state/church watchdog. Two 30-second spots have been alternating on the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. news on WISC-TV (CBS), warning: "Walker wants to take money from our public schools and use it to support someone else's religion. Your tax dollars shouldn't fund religiously segregated schools." FFRF's April TV campaign ends with a spot during the airing of "CBS Sunday Morning."
The issue-oriented advertising is groundbreaking for FFRF. "We're sounding the alarm," Gaylor said. "The numerous other cuts and proposals in Walker's budget are distracting everyone and dominating the headlines. Nobody seems to be paying attention to the gravest threat in the budget — a voucher scheme that if enacted would ultimately destroy our public, secular school system."
FFRF has created a web page, ffrf.org/stopvouchers, to inform the Wisconsin public on the dangers of expanding vouchers. In May, FFRF will take its "ouch!" warning to a billboard at 1201 Regent St. near the Charter Street intersection.
FFRF has 22,000 nonreligious members nationwide, including more than 1,300 in Wisconsin.
Watch FFRF ad. (Scroll down to view second ad.)
Green Bay citizens are being urged to take alarm and vigorously oppose Governor Scott Walker's proposal to open the floodgates on religious school vouchers.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been airing two 30-second TV commercials on WFRV-TV (CBS) on the six and ten o'clock news broadcasts this week, continuing through Friday. It's also placing an anti-voucher ad on next Sunday's local airing of CBS Sunday Morning.
"We have a sense of urgency to inform the public about the disastrous consequences, if Walker's voucher expansion is adopted," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
In the Green Bay Area Public School District, 57.8% of its currently enrolled public school students (12,083) would, if Walker's scheme passed, be eligible for vouchers, removing thousands of dollars per student in aid from public schools. Most private schools are religiously-segregated.
"Walker's reckless scheme would defund and ultimately destroy our public schools," Gaylor added. "We should end Wisconsin's failed voucher experiment, not expand it."
FFRF notes that Walker's recently expanded statewide voucher system has resulted in a system where 100% of the state-funded schools are Christian, and 73% of students attend Roman Catholic schools.
One spot explains:
Our public schools are under attack by Governor Walker. He wants to take money from our public schools and use it to support someone else's religion. Your tax dollars shouldn't fund religiously-segregated schools. Nearly half of our state's students would be eligible for vouchers under Walker's scheme. Vouchers are bad for children and bad for education. Help us stop Walker's brazen attack on our public schools.
A second, more dramatic ad, says:
There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, and war, and all evil in the state, as religion. Let it once enter our civil affairs, our government would soon be destroyed. Let it once enter our common schools, they would be destroyed. [quoting a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision] Stop Governor Walker's disastrous proposal to expand vouchers for religiously-segregated schools.
The TV commercials also began airing in Madison April 6 for two weeks on the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. news broadcasts on WISC-TV 3000, the Madison-area CBS affiliate. A few also aired in La Crosse-Eau Claire.
The ad takes viewers to a splash page, ffrf.org/stopvouchers, which encourages them to contact legislators, and provides background and anti-voucher FAQs. Read Wisconsin FAQ. Read "Dispelling the myth of 'school choice,'" FAQ.
FFRF, a national state/church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., has 22,000 nonreligious members nationwide, including more than 1,300 in Wisconsin and many in the Green Bay area.
Vouchers Supreme Court - Click here to watch ad.