I’m a little late in commenting, but I’ve been asked to give my opinion on the deal between Assembly Speaker John Gard and Governor Jim Doyle regarding the raising of the caps on school choice in Milwaukee by 7,500 students in exchange for a $25 million increase in the SAGE program over two years, with about a third of that money going to the Milwaukee Public Schools. (Yes, I occasionally take requests.)
I think it’s a decent deal for school choice supporters.
I think that reasonably, given a governor from a different party who owes his political existence in part to the teachers’ unions in this state, it was probably the best that Republicans could hope for. Remember, the deadline and the crisis was going to hurt the choice program. Thousands of kids could have found themselves unable to attend the school of their choice this fall. Eliminating the caps completely may have been desirable, and certainly should be the highest priority of the next governor, but it was not a likely outcome of the negotiations.
Missing the deadline may have hurt Doyle with one part of his constituency, African Americans with children in choice schools, but would have enhanced his stature with the teachers’ unions, and they contribute money. So, in a way, Doyle had the pressure of time on his side. However, the attack ads of the school choice side were raising the cost for Doyle to a level that he had to get their ads off the air and the situation under control.
Some have said school choice supporters have accused the governor of wanting to eliminate the program entirely. It’s certainly possible, but who knows what’s in the heart of Governor Jim Doyle? But even absent that evidence, we have evidence enough to convict him of casual indifference to the fates of school children enrolled in the program.
Each deal offered by the governor contained poison pill provisions designed to kill any possible deal. As the public battle waged on, Doyle took to lying about the willingness of school choice supporters to negotiate and lied about his own position as well. Realistically, had the governor stripped his proposals of those provisions unrelated to school choice a compromise may have been reached some time ago. Instead, he took lumps, and deserved them.
I have had the misfortune then of seeing the spin afterwards. The Coriolis Force of Matt Flynn’s statement on Belling & Company yesterday praising the governor for his leadership nearly knocked me off my chair. Reading Folkbum today was a revelation of good partisanship gone bad. Fair enough to lament the tactics of our side, but do you really believe the governor won Friday?
In the end, school choice supporters got most of what they wanted. The governor got a little of what he wanted. But the real winners are the kids.