Saturday, April 12, 2014

Voucher mob tries to take over the 920, MPS, and anywhere else they can

Yesterday was obviously a big day in Wisconsin politics, as two long-time Fox Valley Republicans decided not to run for re-election after being pressured by extreme right-wingers in their own party. I can talk about the retirement of U.S. Rep. Tom Petri at a different time, because I want to concentrate on what a certain State Senator's retirement means, and how it illustrates just how a very specific interest group has come to take over much of the education policy and discussion in our once-strong education state.

State Senate President Mike Ellis quit yesterday after a "hidden video" recording surfaced, which caught Ellis explaining how he was planning to set up his own SuperPAC with Appleton-area oligarchs. But the real story to me with the "Ellis tape" is that it came from Breitbart Boy/Ratfucker James O'Keefe, most infamous for making racist, deceptive videos about ACORN and for being convicted in 2010 for trying to break into a Dem Senator's office in New Orleans and tamper with her phone.

So what was a right-wing scumbag like O'Keefe doing to try to take out a Republican like Ellis, who had voted for Act 10, both Walker budgets, heinous abortion bills and other ridiculous WisGOP bills the last 3 years? The answer seems to be related to billboards that a pro-voucher group put out last June, after Ellis slowed an expansion of taxpayers funding voucher schools in Wisconsin.
A tea party group in Ellis’ district recently erected a billboard depicting the veteran senator as an Egyptian pharaoh. Accompanying the ancient monarch is a baby meant to resemble the baby in E-Trade ads.

The board’s call to action: “Set our children free!”....

“There’s not a direct connection when you think of the children of our time and the Jewish children (of ancient Egypt), but from the standpoint of freedom of choice and ‘let my people go,’ that’s the key phrase that we think has some application here,” explains Ed Perkins, president of the Fox Valley Initiative, the tea party political action committee responsible for the ads.

Perkins used to sit on the board of the Lutheran Urban Mission Initiative in Milwaukee, an association of Lutheran schools that participate in that city’s voucher program.
And we know that the oligarchs that give "dirty work" money to people like James O'Keefe would love to dismantle public education, rob teachers' unions of bargaining power, and grab taxpayer dollars and profits off of voucher schools for themselves. It's a logical connection. Ellis admitted as much in his resignation letter.
Instead of being criticized from our opponents, independent thought is attacked in our own backyard. Like my dear friends Tim Cullen, Bob Jauch and Dale Schultz, I see that compromise is not valued in today's Capitol environment, and that means I don't fit in anymore. Special interests hold too much sway, instead of the voice of the people. I'm a senator from a different era, and I value my integrity too much to compromise it any more.
Of course, a lot of us wish Ellis hadn't spent the last 3 years compromising his integrity on a whole lot of the Walker agenda (for example, Ellis gave the "Wisconsin 14" some extra time to leave the State Senate in 2011 before informing others, knowing that Act 10 would be as divisive and wrong as it was. But he ended up voting for it anyway). But let's see if the old guy grows a pair over the last 7 months and reveals where the bodies are buried. With over 20% of the State Assembly not running for re-election in 2014 and at least 5 of the 17 State Senators doing the same (assuming Joe Leibham jumps into the now-open 6th-district Congressional seat), there's definitely something going on behind the scenes at the Capitol that a lot of people don't want to be part of.

And the voucher lobby isn't going to slow down, despite the release this week showing that voucher schools underperform the public schools they "compete" against in Milwaukee and Racine when it comes to standardized test scores. That's the reality and results-based world, and that's not something the voucher lobby cares about- they just want cash and power. Erin Richards in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports about how these people are trying to "train" the next generation of voucher supporters to get into office.
On Saturday in Milwaukee, the pro-school voucher group American Federation for Children is hosting a training session for would-be candidates for state legislature, school board, mayor or city council.

The training is co-hosted by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and Democrats for Education Reform, and aimed at advocates for "educational choice" — the general term for voucher and charter schools. The federation supports the expansion of school voucher programs that send public funds to private, mostly religious schools.

Brian Pleva, AFC's Wisconsin government affairs associate, said the candidate training school was bipartisan, and would be more focused on the nuts and bolts of running for office, such as understanding campaign finance, campaign strategy and communication and fundraising.

"We believe in ensuring that all children see increased educational outcomes," Pleva said. "But this is a nonpartisan campaign school with bipartisan presenters, so people getting riled up is puzzling to me."

One person riled up is Milwaukee School Board Member Larry Miller.

He suspects the AFC and MMAC are gearing up to groom candidates in favor of more charter and voucher schools who could run against Milwaukee School Board members in elections one year from now.
And isn't it nice that the MMAC have their hands in this- the same pro-Walker group of oligarchs that Journal Communication's CEO Steven Smith sits on? Note also the mention of the quickly-dying "Democrats for School Choice" (a group who got swept out of the Legislature in several Milwaukee-area Dem primaries in 2012), as AFC tries to keep up the fa├žade that voucherizing education is somehow a bipartisan issue in 2014. After 20+ years of this experiment in Milwaukee with the outcomes getting worse and worse, a lot of us know better than to buy into the failed idea of "school choice," but make no mistake, these guys won't stop trying to grab power and funnel money to themselves and their buddies in Wisconsin until they and their allies are buried and destroyed as a political force. At which point they'll head to some other place where they can find more suckers to buy into their scam.

And as the forced retirement of Mike Ellis and the expansions of vouchers since 2011 in Wisconsin show, that time is no time soon. In fact, the last 3 GOP Assembly Speakers are all lobbyists for the voucher folks, with convicted criminal Scott Jensen in particular being a big player in selecting candidates and policies to give these people even more power (and you'll note that the DA who agreed to plea out Jensen's case in Waukesha County is the lead GOP candidate for Attorney General in Wisconsin- no quid pro quo there, eh?). If the Dems in Wisconsin had any brains at all, they'd be exposing the voucher lobby as money grubbers that want nothing more than to destroy the fabric of Wisconsin communities and schools in the name of a few bucks, and they'd better do it NOW, while there's still a semblance of a quality public education system left to save in Wisconsin.

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