Sunday, February 16, 2014

This week in WisGOP corruption- school voucher version

Three examples from the past week shed more light on just how backroom a lot of the GOP legislation backing school vouchers is in Wisconsin. And like most things WisGOP, it's a combination of incestuous relationships and flat-out corruption of public funds.

1. One Wisconsin Now did an expose of who actually wrote a recent voucher bill making its way through the Assembly. And no, it wasn't WisGOP members of the Assembly that were the ones putting the bill together.
Under the terms of Assembly Bill 748, a "new private school" that wished to receive taxpayer money through the voucher program would in certain limited circumstances need to meet a new accreditation standard. However, schools already participating in the program, even those failing to produce positive results for students, are largely untouched by the so-called accountability legislation.

Drafting records reveal the bill's provisions were crafted by a lobbyist for the private school industry that is slated to receive over $380 million from state taxpayers through the private school voucher program in the 2013-15 budget.

An email from the School Choice Wisconsin lobbyist to legislative staff provides specific drafting instructions. A later email from the agency that drafted the language of the bill reports that it was done so per the directions of the voucher lobbyist included in his earlier email.

The bill's purported legislative authors are no strangers to the school privatization industry. Senate author Leah Vukmir declared she would not support the 2013-15 state budget if it did not include an expansion of the private school voucher program. Meanwhile Assembly author Representative Jessie Rodriguez previously worked for the voucher industry and benefited from big spending from voucher-connected groups in her late 2013 special election.

Ah yes, Jessie Rodriguez, the recently-elected new representative for the southern part of Milwaukee County. Whose election came in no small part due to tens of thousands of dollars in voucher money, and whose husband (Aaron) and brother-in-law (Jesus) head up the voucher front group Hispanics for School Choice. I'm sure these things are all coincidences, right Jess?

2. Speaking of Jessie Rodriguez's bosses in the voucher lobby, that led to another interesting moment last week. Former Assembly Speaker and convicted criminal Scott Jensen came out of his hole, and appeared at a state hearing for another voucher bill.

You almost can't see Scooter holding the puppet strings.

...for the first time since he resigned in 2006 amid a scandal that led to a misdemeanor conviction that bars him from ever seeking public office, the former speaker of the state Assembly testified at a public hearing.

[Scott] Jensen is one of three former Assembly speakers behind a powerful lobbying force that advocates for expanding school choice in Wisconsin. Normally content to work the hallways and private offices of the Capitol where he once wielded power as Assembly speaker between 1995 and 2002, Jensen’s decision to offer testimony on an accountability bill shows how much is at stake.

“I think it was very important to communicate how committed the American Federation for Children was to a serious accountability system,” Jensen said Friday when asked why, after three years as a lobbyist, he decided to speak publicly.
Especially when that bill keeps voucher schools from having to face immediate sanctions for failure, unlike public schools. Ain't that right, Mr. Jensen? After all, you didn't shovel all that money to GOP candidates running for the Legislature to come away with nothing, did ya?

3. Which leads to another note regarding one of those recently-elected GOP legislators. Andy at Wisconsin Soapbox takes apart State Sen. Rick Gudex from Fond du Lac, whose 2012 election was helped in no small part by the voucher lobby. First of all, Andy points out that Gudex addressed an AFP/Koch "town hall meeting" in Fond du Lac last week which was held at....11am on a Wednesday. Not really a time that anyone who teaches or a someone with a job and kids in school is going to be around. What a pathetic wuss.

Gudex also has a very corporate-based approach on what "education" should do, which is something that a real teacher like Andy finds a bit off.
[Gudex gives a] direct quote that I, as a teacher, found particularly notable:

Training is a big part of a company's cost, especially when you're at a point where you're really getting to the point where you're looking for employees who don't have the skills that you need.

It's pretty amazing how I look at that quote. I'm a high school teacher, and it's really not my job to specifically train a business's worker. It's my job to provide students a well-rounded education where they are aware of the world around them and get exposure to how they are connected to the world. Once students leave the secondary education system, students then decide to pursue a certain course of study, not necessarily a "job training" program.

That is where the disconnect is. It's a societal conversation we need to be having, and unfortunately we aren't. What is "job training" and what is an "area of study" and how do they relate to the job market/world today.
It's even more telling that businesses want to have the state its schools be the ones who essentially pay for their training, whether it's through more money for tech schools, or allowing more of these students to be taken on for free as apprentices or even for "trial runs" where they essentially get free and reduced-price labor. And certainly raising wages for those jobs to encourage more and better applicants for those positions is something that those businesses NEVER consider. Funny how that works.

These people have a whole lotta corporate bankroll behind them, but they don't have the support of the real people of Wisconsin(which is why these things aren't going through). If they are brought into the light, and if the average Wisconsinite realized just how much contempt this voucher cabal from the Milwaukee area has for what works in education for the vast majority of the state, the Wisconsin GOP wouldn't win most of rural Wisconsin.

Because the bottom line is that today's Wisconsin GOP doesn't care about better educational outcomes or improving the state's competitiveness or giving more "choice" for parents- all they're doing is funneling taxpayer dollars to campaign contributors. It should be called out as such.

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