The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by WisOpinion.com.
Recently, Governor Evers stirred up some controversy in an interview about the ongoing state budget process. He said that if the legislature’s proposed budget included a plan to implement universal school choice, he would veto it. Evers claimed that he is, “planning on signing a good budget,” but what constitutes a good budget? If you ask the families of Wisconsin, I would suggest many would argue that a “good budget” is one that creates more high-quality educational opportunities for their children. Sadly, the focus on partisan battles is putting the needs of families on the back burner. Meanwhile, our children are the unheard victims.
For years, families across Wisconsin have been enrolling their students in choice schools, and we see the increase in numbers every year. My family transferred me from my zoned public school to a charter school after realizing that I needed smaller classroom sizes to learn. The charter schools I had the opportunity to attend set me up on the path to success. I know what the right learning environment can do for a child like me. Whether the school children attend is a public, private, charter, magnet, online, or other option, they should be able to use whatever school works best for them – regardless of their income.
Thanks to the vast educational opportunities in Wisconsin, I was able to thrive. It makes me incredibly sad to know that the funding that supported me – and my education – is constantly under attack. Governor Evers and many others like to imply that school choice takes funding away from public schools, but they do not ask the fundamental question:
“Why should a public school that isn’t educating a child still receive the funds to educate them?”
The students who use Wisconsin choice programs are from lower-income families, and many have already tried their public schools. When families decide to use the choice programs, their children are being educated with less money than at a public school. Yet every time the budget is redone, Governor Evers seems to attack the very program that educates thousands of students whose needs the public system didn’t meet.
This year, in the Governor’s proposed budget, he is proposing to stop any new student trying to enroll in choice programs. This would leave thousands of students who need an alternative on the waitlist. Those who attend schools of choice are no less important than those who attend public schools. Wisconsin families deserve answers as to why their Governor is acting as if their voices no longer matter. A budget that fits the needs of some and not all is a budget Wisconsin does not need.
This proposal would make schools that are already running on less money than public schools even harder to operate. Private schools must raise thousands of dollars to reach the per-pupil amount public schools are guaranteed. Charter schools must adhere to rigorous standards to even receive funding. Freezing enrollment would only hinder students from receiving the best possible education they can get.
Martin Luther King once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It is time to put politics aside and work with each other the way that our former Wisconsin leaders, Assemblywoman Polly Williams and Governor Tommy Thompson, once did. Together, we need to ensure the education quality of every child is top-tier. If our families care so much about this goal, then so should our elected representatives.
If Republicans in the legislature and Governor Evers can work together to support all families, then everyone wins.
–Roberts is a student at Marquette University and a graduate of Dr. Howard Fuller Collegiate Academy, a public charter school in Milwaukee. She is a 2022 Future Leaders Fellow with the American Federation for Children.