Wednesday, February 01, 2006

MTEA School Voucher Ad

The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, MTEA, has put together a radio ad that opposes completely lifting the enrollment cap on the voucher program in Milwaukee. It’s the first ad this year to take that position.

The quality of the ad in terms of using facts over rhetoric blows away the attack ad put together by Charlie Sykes and Mikel Holt a few weeks ago. Not only does it use actual figures to make its case rather than bad history, it also encourages listeners to contact their state representative in order to “tell them to either limit the school voucher system or eliminate it.”

Just listen to the two ads side by side and decide for yourself which does more to advance the public discussion on the voucher issue. You can hear the MTEA ad here and the Sykes ad here.

Despite the overall strength of the MTEA ad in comparison to the Sykes ad, it does make a couple questionable points.

One is the assumption that property value in
Milwaukee will decrease as a result, albeit indirectly, of the voucher program. I don’t find this a very plausible argument and it’s not backed up by any evidence in the ad or anywhere else that I’ve seen, but it still doesn’t come close to the logical leaps made in the Sykes ad.

Another point—which is accurate but nevertheless deserves more explanation—is the connection the ad makes between MPS budget cuts and the voucher system. While the voucher program certainly hurts MPS financially through forcing Milwaukee taxpayers to pay more for a voucher student than an MPS student—as evidenced in a review by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau—the voucher program alone is not completely to blame for the budget cuts. School districts across the state, which do not pay a thing for the voucher program, are pinching pennies, too. The budgetary cuts MPS has faced due to the voucher program seem to be more a result of how funding was set-up for the voucher program rather than the mere existence of a voucher program.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s proposal to allow Milwaukee taxpayers to pay the same for voucher students as they do MPS students seems to address the voucher program’s funding flaw. Does the MTEA support Barrett’s proposal? Would the passage of such a proposal alleviate the extra budgetary burden MPS currently faces because of the voucher program?

If the MTEA can show that budget cuts would continue as a direct result of the voucher program, in spite of the funding flaw correction, then I think they have a strong case for diverting some of the money the state coffers receive from the voucher program to MPS. Until then, however, it’s not fair to blame the existence of the voucher program alone for the budget cuts MPS has experienced.


Blogger Jay Bullock said...

Remember, Seth, that the Mayor's proposal, as I understand it, only covers voucher students above the current 15% cap. Milwaukee taxpayers will continue to be bled if the program's funding is not overhauled more fully.

February 01, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Good point, Jay. I was surprised to see Barrett be so generous with his proposal. I suppose he wanted as much as possible to avoid being accused of trying to get more state money for MPS, but ironically that happened, anyway.

I think if MTEA can demonstrate to the public exactly how the voucher program is hurting MPS financially, with direct numbers like those presented in the LFB letter to Barrett, it would add an important new layer to the debate.

February 02, 2006  

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