Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Reasonable Proposal: Why Aren't Republicans Listening?

It turns out I wasn't the only person Barrett spoke to yesterday about the school voucher issue (surprise, surprise, huh?).

Barrett officially announced a proposal to raise the enrollment cap on the voucher program while simultaneously providing property tax relief to Milwaukee residents, who currently pay about $1000 more in property taxes to educate a voucher student than they pay to educate an MPS student.

An article in the Journal-Sentinel by Alan Borsuck has the details.

Basically, it comes down to the fact that the state pays about 79% of the cost to educate an MPS student while only covering 55% of the cost of educating a voucher student. Barrett is proposing to take 1/3 of the savings that the state gets from having students attend voucher schools, which comes out to about $1000 per student, and using it to even out the score for Milwaukee taxpayers. The state would still get to keep 2/3 of the savings, or $2000 per voucher student, it gets from the voucher program to put in its coffers.

In other words, Barrett's proposal would make it so that Milwaukee taxpayers pay the same amount for voucher students as they do for MPS students. And as if that wasn't enough, the proposal would only impact voucher students who join the program above the current enrollment level of 14,751 FTE. That means Milwaukee taxpayers would continue to pay more for those students already in the program; they'd only see a savings on additional voucher students who come into the program once the cap is raised.

Despite the fact that Barrett's proposal is cost-neutral for every other school district in the state, Republican leaders reacted negatively to it. According to Borsuk's article, Republican point-person on the voucher issue, State Assembly Speaker John Gard, said that he wasn't interested in Barrett's proposal. Evidently he's too busy making an election year issue out of this with pal Mark Green to take the time to entertain what voucher-proponent Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, called "a new, creative idea for consideration."

The more conservatives reject reasonable proposals, continue to sling baseless mud, and focus on grandstanding ahead of negotiating the more clear it's going to become that this is about a Republican campaign strategy, not helping Milwaukee children and Milwaukee families.

Conservative News Flash: The gravy-train of misinformation on the voucher issue has run its course. Play time is over. It's time now to start getting on with the business of actually creating a bill that helps all Milwaukee students while protecting Milwaukee families.

UPDATE: I just posted a link to the LFB letter to Barrett. You can see it here.

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