Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels’ education overhaul has been called into question by Democrats across the state, as it could potentially raise property taxes by over $500 million and strip funding from Wisconsin public schools and direct it to private schools.
Michels, who has said he’s not an expert in education, has proposed a plan that would see the implementation of universal school choice which, something he believes would bring “competition into the education marketplace.” Traditionally, universal school choice means eliminating enrollment and income caps on vouchers families use to help pay for private school tuition.
According to John Witte, a retired UW-Madison professor, with Universal School Choice, “You’d be subsidizing people who have money already to do something that probably, in most cases, almost all cases, they would do anyway”.
Earlier this year, Republican legislators passed a bill that would break up the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) into smaller districts, but Governor Tony Evers vetoed it, citing that Republicans had minimal evidence for how it would help students. To many, the plan to break up MPS, the largest school district in the state, would cause chaos for parents and the 70,000 students in the district as they would have to coordinate new logistics within new districts. Michels said he would consider legislation that included MPS splitting and he would not support legislation increasing funding for the district unless it made significant changes.
Both universal school choice and withholding funding from public schools can have significantly harmful effects on students and teachers.
Evers’ campaign spokesperson Kayla Anderson said, “Instead of supporting parents, students, and teachers, Tim Michels wants to divide communities even further by breaking up neighborhood public schools in Milwaukee, without a plan to improve public education. Wisconsinites don’t want Michels’ radical and divisive brand of politics in their kids’ classrooms.”
Just like states across the country, the future of Wisconsin’s education system lies within the hands of the winner of the November 8th gubernatorial election.