April 24, 2014

Voucher groups spend big in Wisconsin

Supporters of plans to expand school voucher programs have spent almost $10 million on Wisconsin elections over the past decade. The figures come from a report released by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which looked at money spent by pro-voucher groups and individuals.

WDC executive director Mike McCabe says that money largely benefitted candidates for statewide and legislative offices. Some of it was given directly to campaigns and campaign committees, although he says the majority of it was spent on election-related activities like advertising sponsored by those groups.

McCabe says the money was largely directed at Republican candidates and conservatives on the state Supreme Court. The biggest recipient was Governor Scott Walker, who received more than $1.2 million. Others include key state lawmakers who McCabe says are in a position to influence the current debate over expanding school choice programs beyond Milwaukee and Racine. State Supreme Court justices also received contributions

AUDIO: Mike McCabe (:14)

McCabe says almost half of the $10 million flowed to candidates during the last election cycle, feeding speculation that it could be a major driver behind the renewed talk about expanding voucher programs. He says that comes despite voucher schools failing to live up the promises made 23 years ago that they would improve test scores and create competition that would drive improvements in public schools.

Pro-voucher groups counter that there’s still strong support statewide for expanding school choice, which is why the issue remains a focus of lawmakers.