Wednesday, June 13, 2007

School Voucher Funding: The Circus is in Town


Last winter, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett proposed increasing state funding for new voucher students so that Milwaukee taxpayers would pay the same amount for those new voucher students as they do for MPS students.

At the time, the governor and Republican legislative leaders agreed with Barrett in principle, but said that the funding fix would need to wait until the 2007-2009 biennial budget.

Fast-forward to this winter, Governor Doyle included in his '07-'09 budget proposal the exact funding fix that Mayor Barrett asked for last year. However, now Mayor Barrett and other leaders in Milwaukee feel that plan doesn't go far enough and want the funding fix to apply to all voucher students, not just new ones, a decision that's helped to split the Dem position on the issue and create a space for the GOP to play it like a political fiddle.

Republicans on the JFC let out word that they were prepared to support the plan to have the fix apply to all voucher students, but they didn't want to actually make the motion during budget deliberations. Dem legislator Pedro Colon was expected to raise it, but he didn't because JFC co-chair Russ Decker (D-Weston) told him that doing so would cost Milwaukee other funding proposals.

As a result, the Doyle proposal made it through the JFC intact. However, some predictions are that Doyle's proposal may get axed in conference committee, possibly because outstate Dem legislators, like Decker, aren't too fond of the voucher program to start, while Republicans -- who do support the voucher program -- don't really care if Milwaukee residents need to pay more for it.

To be sure, while Republicans on the JFC pledged to support the more expensive (for the state, that is) proposal to fix the funding flaw for all voucher students, they also all voted against the less expensive proposal by Doyle to only have the fix apply to new voucher students.

Why? Well, in the end, Republicans are more than happy to feed a situation that has the Dems fighting amongst themselves to the point that the voucher funding comes out of the budget in the same form that it went into it: inequitably. And the Dems, apparently, are more than happy to go along with it.

Oh, and to top it all off, some expect that those other Milwaukee funding proposals -- the ones Colon was trying to protect in the JFC budget deliberations by not proposing the funding fix for all voucher students -- may get cut, anyway, in conference committee.

Too bad the Ringling Brothers already have the copyright on that "Greatest Show on Earth" line.

UPDATE: I received a note from Mayor Barrett's office today clarifying that the mayor's position always has been that fixing the funding flaw for new voucher students was a minimum fix.

This is a distinction worth noting because it suggests Barrett's position didn't change, exactly, but rather he viewed his proposal last winter as a start to correcting the funding flaw, which is a position backed by comments Barrett makes in this Journal Sentinel article.

That said, the effect of the situation is still the same -- the GOP is gladly exploiting a rift in the Dem position on fixing the funding flaw. It's just that the rift is more a result of proximity to Milwaukee than political shifting, as I made out in the post.

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Blogger Dad29 said...

Republicans are more than happy to feed a situation that has the Dems fighting amongst themselves

So Harry Reid actually taught the Pubbies something...

June 13, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Yeah, Harry Reid invented political game playing.

June 13, 2007  

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