Protesters: Vouch for public schools, not school choice

(Curt Lenz/WMTV)
(Curt Lenz/WMTV)(NBC15)
Published: Jan. 28, 2020 at 5:43 PM CST
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While Vice President Mike Pence showcased school choice inside the State Capitol, people inside and outside the building stood by public education.

Local education advocates and officials argue public schools have been under attack for years, and funding is being slashed by President Donald Trump’s administration.

“Democrats will fight every day unified in the belief that public education is the foundation of a free and democratic society,” said Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Ben Winkler. “We believe that fighting for every child right to have a great public education is foundational to the future of the community and the future of our country."

Madison School Board member Ananda Mirilli and Madison East Bilingual Resource Officer Silvia Gomez also spoke out against a new tax credit program that would provide $5 billion towards private school scholarships and tuition for any type of education parents want for their children.

“They never intended nor will they fulfill any promise to improve our public education, neglecting Wisconsin families and our children,” said Mirilli.

The organization, Indivisible Madison, organized Tuesday’s protest outside the capitol and raised concerns public school funding will get directed to private schools.

“We’re concerned about the accountability of private schools,” said Linda Kessel, one of the rally organizers with Indivisible Madison. “They don’t have the same performance standards as public schools, and they really don’t have a long-term commitment. They could leave tomorrow.”

Democratic lawmakers reintroduced the Public Education Reinvestment Act (PERA) after Pence’s event in the rotunda.

The legislation would lower class sizes, and phase out voucher schools. It would also reinstate and expand the former Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) program.

SAGE provided aid to schools that maintain an 18-to-1 or 30-to-2 teacher-student ratio for poor students in kindergarten through third grade.

According to records from Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the total number of students and state aid payments for school choice programs have increased in the past four years.

  • 2016-17 school year: 61,456 student enrolled, $246,594,168.30 in state aid payments
  • 2017-18 school year: 65,698 students enrolled, $273,787,048.45 in state aid payments
  • 2018-19 school year: 72,127 students enrolled, $311,154,658.37 in state aid payments
  • 2019-20 school year: 76,584 students enrolled, $351,180,390.29 in state aid payments

show the total student enrollment in public schools for the 208-19 school year was 858, 833 students. Total state aid for schools was $5.63 billion.

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