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Gov. Walker's education priorities

It should come as no surprise that the budget "crisis" that has resulted in the stand-off at the Wisconsin statehouse is not so bad that the state can afford to send more tax dollars to private and parochial schools.

Gov. Scott Walker's newly released budget proposal calls for steep reductions in school district funding, a 10 percent cut to grants for bilingual-bicultural education and 4-year-old kindergarten. It also flat-lines funding for special education and low-income students, even though growth is expected in both populations, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

But Walker wants to spend more on vouchers and charter schools:

"Meanwhile, Milwaukee's 20-year-old voucher program would receive $22.5 million more to accommodate 1,300 additional students. The growth would result from Walker's proposal to remove the program's income requirements and enrollment caps.

"And independent charter schools would receive $18.4 million more over the biennium. Walker is projecting 600 additional students as his proposal would lift the state enrollment cap on virtual charter schools, allow the UW System's 13 four-year universities to establish charter schools, and allow independent charter schools in any district in the state."

Just as the voucher and charter push in Indiana has nothing to do with improving schools, the strikingly similar push in Wisconsin has nothing to do with cutting the state budget.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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