Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

One, two, three, many Madisons


State Senator Mike Ellis got himself a few friendly headlines with his opposition to the expansion of school choice. At the MacIver Institute’s web site, I take apart the whole “local control” argument and Ellis’ call for a referendum in every district that needs school choice.

It’s especially disappointing when Republicans like Ellis, who have little to gain by defending the educational status quo except a few fleeting favorable headlines, decide to cast their lot with the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC). After WEAC’s attempts to unseat so many of Ellis’ colleagues and foment unrest at the Capitol, you would think that he would be reluctant to placate them with a proposal to block the expansion of school choice.

Instead, what Ellis proposals is the expansion of the conflict, protests and demonstrations in Madison to a community near you. A battle-weary Wisconsin would see WEAC’s organized chaos writ large.

What Ellis proposes is that no expansion of private school choice could take place without a referendum within the affected school district. To get the referendum on the ballot, supporters of private school choice would have to meet the same level of signatures needed for the recall of an elected member of the legislature. (One would think Ellis would be discouraging of efforts to gather that many signatures after the experiences of the last two years.) This referendum process would somehow assure “local control.”

It’s an absurd notion. The moment such a petition effort began, partisans from both sides would beleaguer the local school district. They would be flooded by outside union ad spending and outside union organizers opposed to school choice. Where is the “local” in that chaos?

We can almost hear the chants now echoing across the state, “One, two, three, many Madisons!”

It’s not as if local control is somehow sacrosanct when it comes to education spending in Wisconsin. When nearly $10 billion of the state biennial budget is devoted to local k-12 education spending, it is not a formula for local control.

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