Tony Evers Reacts To DPI Budget, Voucher Expansion

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Tony Evers Reacts To DPI Budget, Voucher Expansion

Premiere Date: 
June 6, 2013

Tony Evers responds to the budget's proposed voucher expansion and public school funding.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

For more on school choice expansion that under the Joint Finance compromise would allow limited enrollment statewide in return for $150 bump in public school per pupil aid, we turn to state public school superintendent, Tony Evers. He joins us by phone from Milwaukee. Superintendent, thanks for doing so.

Tony Evers:

Great to be here.

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, Jim Bender of School Choice Wisconsin has just said the reason that you and other establishment educators want to stifle voucher expansion is so you can maintain “power and control.” What is your reaction to that?

Tony Evers:

It's laughable. That's my reaction to it. I'm concerned about the public schools in this state, but it has nothing to do with power and control. Fact of the matter is we have over 20 years of experience in Milwaukee public schools and there has been shown to be little or no difference between the achievement of kids that go to voucher schools and kids who go to public schools. So it's about-- It's about the plain facts academically. It hasn't been shown to be a good practice. And to take it statewide and essentially create a second system of public schools, or in this case, private schools getting public funds, it just doesn't cut it with me.

Frederica Freyberg:

So you do call this expansion financially reckless, and you just spoke to the other thing you called it, which was academically unproven. How is it financially reckless in your mind?

Tony Evers:

Well, it’s going to take– I mean, the bottom line there is, X number of dollars in the budget, as we saw this time, where we had $1.5 billion proposed surplus. $600 million goes to tax reduction. So people are making decisions all the time. So whatever is going for this expansion is not going to be able to go to our public schools. So it certainly does impact us financially. There’ll be schools in this state, eventually, where the public schools get no state aid and the kids going to private schools in those towns get $7,000 per pupil. You tell me it doesn't make a difference.

Frederica Freyberg:

The compromise version of this school choice expansion that came out of Joint Finance did again include that increase in per pupil spending in public schools. You've called that, kind of, a small move. But isn't small better than no move?

Tony Evers:

Oh, absolutely. 150 is better than zero, but the fact of the matter is we went backwards $550 last time. So to me, to say that this is a quid pro quo just doesn't cut it with me. And in addition, the governor and Representative Vos and others. said well before this deal was cut that indeed they were-- they were rethinking their position and were going to give public schools more money. So I'm not quite sure how this is a negotiating ploy to get vouchers across the state. It was clear that this was going to be the case. It's also clear that, and the governor said it publicly, that it's his goal that there be no limits on vouchers across the state, and that's been the case in the past. So we're not talking about just a small program. This has the potential of being a billion dollar program after those limits are raised.

Frederica Freyberg:

So, superintendent, very briefly, if interest exceeds the caps and public school families across the state wind up, kind of, clamoring to sign up to attend voucher schools, how will DPI respond then?

Tony Evers:

Well, we-- Well, there's nothing we can do initially because we do have these limits, but I don't believe the parents of the state are going to abandon public schools. The fact of the matter is Marquette polls, recent polling, shows that there's overwhelming support for our public schools. The issue is taking money away that the public schools could access.

Frederica Freyberg:

Superintendent Tony Evers, thanks very much for joining us.

Tony Evers:

Thanks, Frederica.


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