Monday, March 26, 2007

Clifford's Supporters Oppose School Choice?


I was caught by a comment made in the Journal Sentinel this morning regarding the state Supreme Court race.

While the article in question claims it's unclear where either Linda Clifford or Annette Ziegler stand on the school voucher program, it states that a few things are clear, including the following: "Clifford's backers include many people and groups who oppose the school choice program. Ziegler's backers include many who favor the program."

Hmm. I remember following the school voucher debate pretty closely last January. And though it's been awhile, I only remember two groups -- WEAC and the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) -- that opposed the voucher program.

While GOPers tried really hard to make the voucher debate a "for or against" issue on the program as a whole, the debate was really over how much the program would be expanded. Governor Doyle and most legislative Dems
backed controlled growth along with instituting classroom accountability and many legislative Republicans supported removing the cap altogether without classroom accountability.

Looking at the list of supporters on Clifford's website along with the list of her campaign donors, I don't see WEAC or MTEA. And I couldn't find anything on either group's website about Linda Clifford or the state Supreme Court race in general.

It seems to me this JS article was making an assumption -- and, perhaps, an inaccurate one -- based upon the fact that Clifford is essentially the Dem candidate and Ziegler is essentially the GOP candidate. So you could really substitute any partisan issue with clear consitutional implications into that statement.

For instance, "Clifford's backers include many people and groups who support a woman's right to choose. Ziegler's backers include many who oppose a woman's right to choose."

Or, "Clifford's backers include many people and groups who oppose concealed carry. Ziegler's backers include many who favor concealed carry."

But, of course, the tricky part about using school vouchers is that neither party has proposed eliminating the voucher program; again, the debate was (and is) over the program's growth.

And, ultimately, all of statements listed above say very little about what either candidate would do as a state Supreme Court justice to impact any of the issues at hand. Although the JS article said its version of the statement was "clear," rather than providing clarity, it actually did nothing more than increase speculation, just as any version of that statement would.

Nevertheless, I emailed Alan Borsuk -- the lead author of the JS article -- this morning to see what he was basing the statement upon. I'll add an update when I hear back.

UPDATE: Borsuk responded by giving WEAC and the Milwaukee County Labor Council (MCLC) as two examples of voucher opponents who have endorsed Clifford.

Jay also notes in the comments that WEAC has endorsed Clifford, but I still can't seem to find the endorsement. It's not on WEAC's webstite or Clifford's website, and there's no listing of it at the Wheeler Report or WisPolitics dating back through the time that Clifford announced her candidacy at the beginning of January. And, as of February 5, WEAC had not given any money to the Clifford campaign. Perhaps it was just noted in a newsletter or memo sent only to teachers?

It doesn't appear the MCLC has formally endorsed Clifford, although its sister organization -- the Wisconsin AFL-CIO -- has done so and donated $5000 to Clifford's campaign. The MCLC, for its part, does have a couple of pieces on its website that go after Ziegler, which certainly could be construed as an implicit endorsement of Clifford.

However, that said, I couldn't find anything about the MCLC -- or, for that matter, the WI AFL-CIO -- being a vocal opponent of the school voucher program, let alone advocating for its elimination.

And, in the end, I still haven't seen any evidence that gets close to buttressing the argument that "Clifford's backers include many people and groups who oppose the school choice program." It seems, at the most, that the vast majority of Clifford's backers actually don't have a public position on the program at all.

LATE UPDATE: I just heard from another person that WEAC has recently endorsed Clifford and donated to her campaign. Whether this alone means "many people and groups" remains in question.

LATE LATE UPDATE: The latest campaign finance figures are out, and it appears I'm caught a bit with my foot in my mouth. If I would've seen this morning that WEAC subsidiaries have shelled out around $35,000 to Clifford's campaign in the last couple of weeks, I definitely would have kept my trap shut about the JS article line.

Although I still don't think the line is entirely fair or accurate -- the vast majority of Clifford's supporters are still not active voucher opponents -- the line got a whole lot more justifiable with the WEAC donations.

This is why I should stick to policy.

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Blogger Jay Bullock said...

WEAC has endorsed Clifford.

Personally, I thought the important thing she said in her statement about schools was concerning school funding, since the court in Vincent v. Voigt (2000? 1999?) said that the school funding formula was okay--for now. But the Vincent court clerarly left the door wide open for a complete overhaul in the near future--almost inviting a new challenge.

But "vouchers" is a hot-button word, even if nothing is likely to happen on that front.

March 26, 2007  
Blogger Dad29 said...

As usual, there was a bit of political crap tossed into the expansion debate.

For the time being, let's not discuss funding...

There are some very well-known and very successful private schools which will NOT accept 'choice,' because they understand the golden rule: he who has the gold makes the rules. These folks will not tolerate State interference in their schools, period. I don't blame them.

I think, however, that a compromise on classroom 'accountability' can be reached: those schools whose students are consistently admitted to next-level schools (HS or college) will not be visited by State DOE people, period.

Naturally, all the other usual conditions apply--financial integrity, no abuse problems, etc.

The finance matter is waaayyyyy too complex (and the Leggies and Governors have deliberately made it so) to address in a combox.

March 26, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

If WEAC is backing Clifford, it's certainly not being very outspoken about it. I couldn't find a thing on its website about her (or the race in general). Also, Clifford doesn't list WEAC as a supporter on her website, and neither Clifford nor WEAC has released a press statement on any endorsement dating back through December, at least according to the Wheeler Report. Plus, as of the latest campaign finance report, WEAC hasn't given any money to Clifford (although the teachers union in Madison has given quite a bit).

March 26, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WEAC will pull from their near limitless trough of money to run hit pieces on Ziegler - just like they did on Mark Green. Same old story.

Make no mistake - Clifford made that statement as a rally call the teachers who typically vote in lock step with the dems. She needed to remind them why it is important for them to vote. As soon as you bring up school funding - all the teachers ears perk up. This was a clearly political ploy...

March 26, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

When you see or hear one of those hit pieces, Anon, let me know.

And WEAC ran spots against Green along with formally endorsing Doyle...unlike WMC, which is just in the business of running hit pieces (as it has on a couple of occasions, here and here, against Clifford) without the formal endorsements...I suppose that's to preserve the appearance of objectivity.

Suggesting she wants to go after the voucher program would be the opposite of a smart political move for Clifford. It would elicit far more anger -- especially in the Milwaukee area -- than it would support. There's a reason all of the Dem legislators in the Milwaukee area embrace the program (even if they don't want the cap blown off it).

March 26, 2007  
Blogger Dad29 said...

WEAC does have the option of donating to a 527, no?

March 26, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Every person and group does.

What my post is about is whether there are enough known Clifford supporters actively opposed to the school voucher program to justify the line that "Clifford's backers include many people and groups who oppose the school choice program."

March 26, 2007  

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