The cost of education: Evers, Michels split on plans

The two candidates for Wisconsin governor have been split over many issues, including education, which affect taxpayers beyond families.
Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 6:23 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - In the countdown to the midterms, the two candidates for Wisconsin governor have been split over many issues, including education, which affect taxpayers beyond families.

Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, has asked for additional resources, in September calling for nearly $2 billion more on public K-12 schools.

He said in last week’s debate against Tim Michels, his Republican challenger, “We need to make sure that we have more special education money. We need to make sure that we have mental health money. We need to make sure that our literacy program is making the top readers in the state.”

Meanwhile, Michels has been vocal about his support for universal school choice, tweeting in August that he will introduce it in his first budget.

Despite requests Tuesday, NBC15 has yet to get a dollar estimate from the Michels campaign on the cost of its education plan.

What could compare are numbers drawn up by the Department of Public Instruction for the purpose of recent Assembly Bill 970 about school choice. Ultimately vetoed by Evers, the bill tried to eliminate limits to income and participation.

To do that, the DPI said the cost to taxpayers would be more than $570 million.

“Every parent is a taxpayer, so they should all equally have the benefit of those tax dollars to educate their kids,” Michels said in last week’s debate.

Currently, Wisconsin has a few school choice options, in which families can get taxpayer-funded dollars known as vouchers to help them pay for private schools. These vouchers, however, have limits on participation and family income.

For example, according to the DPI website, a family of 4 cannot make more than $79,500 a year to be a part of the Milwaukee or Racine choice programs.

With universal school choice, also called a universal voucher system, these limits would likely be gone.

“My own personal view is we shouldn’t do it,” John Witte, a retired UW-Madison professor, said, referring to universal vouchers. He has studied the limited school choice options in Wisconsin.

“You’d be subsidizing people who have money already to do something that probably, in most cases, almost all cases, they would do anyway,” Witte said, adding that most families in private schools go for religious purposes and are generally above the median income.

“Tim will deliver school choice for all families to empower parents with options and ensure that all children have access to a great education, regardless of where they live or how much their parents make,” Michels Campaign Spokesperson Anna Kelly wrote to NBC15 Tuesday.

Evers, according to his campaign website, wants to spend his second term expanding job training programs. He also wants to improve financial literacy by making the subject available in high schools.

The 2022 General Election is on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

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