Wisconsin Parents Respond to DeVos Launch of “Back to School” Tour at Milwaukee Voucher School

“Betsy DeVos’s Visit and Policies Neglect 860,000 Kids in Public Schools,” Say Wisconsin Parents

Parents and taxpayers from Eau Claire, Fort Atkinson, Green Bay, La Crosse, Lake Mills, Milwaukee, Palmyra, Racine, Saint Croix, Sun Prairie and Wauwatosa want sufficient funding for their kids’ public schools and more transparency for taxpayers from vouchers schools

On the eve of a visit to Milwaukee by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, public school parents and advocates from across Wisconsin wondered why Secretary DeVos’s visit and policies neglect public school children. Secretary DeVos’s visit is occurring as parents in the Palmyra-Eagle School District attempt to save their kids’ school system from closure, and as voters across Wisconsin approved a record amount of school referenda to enhance aging facilities and/or maintain programming. Despite the calls nationwide for targeted support aligned with the needs of local students, Secretary DeVos proposed to cut $7.1 billion in federal funding from America’s public schools, while dramatically increasing funding to private and privately-operated schools.

While Secretary DeVos launches her “Back to School” tour Monday with a closed-to-public-school-parents meeting at a religious private voucher school in Milwaukee, advocates all over the state express frustration with her focus on expanding a program that has failed to deliver results in Wisconsin, diverting funds from public schools statewide and putting children at risk. 

“U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos advocated for giving parents greater power to choose the educational settings that are best for their children – but apparently that doesn’t apply if parents actually choose their local public education system. Right now, 760 students of the Palmyra-Eagle Area School district face the loss of their entire school district as it faces dissolution, while its community is in a desperate fight to save a system that is the heart of its community and has served students successfully since 1896. Our students are in tears as they struggle to cope with loss of their beloved district and the local culture that understands them. Families of over 860,000 students in Wisconsin have chosen public schools – yet where is a sense of urgency to ensure those students are adequately served and their choices are accepted? Is DeVos working to serve those students? Which is the next community to have their choices taken away?”

— Tara LeRoy, Palmyra, parent of two children in Palmyra-Eagle Area School District and local rural school community advocate


“Milwaukee students have paid the price of Wisconsin’s failed voucher experiment long enough. Even after 30 years of an unaccountable program that picks and chooses its students, Milwaukee’s voucher program still fails to produce results, while students in Milwaukee Public Schools and now statewide, pay the price. Rather than repeating long-disproven propaganda that undermines public schools, Secretary DeVos should be visiting every public school she can, and reporting back to Washington on the amazing things happening in Milwaukee Public Schools, rather than using her visit to reinforce tired myths.”

— Jenni Hofschulte, President, Parents for Public Schools-Milwaukee


“Vouchers for unaccountable private schools cost the Osceola School District and local taxpayers over $300,000 last year, while the district has had to cut almost $2 million from its budget in the last four years. Our taxpayers and students deserve better than Betsy DeVos’s privatization scheme!”

— Bob Wright, Coordinator, Saint Croix Valley Friends of Public Education


“Betsy DeVos’s visit to a private school, and her neglect of every Wisconsin public school, tells you everything you need to know about whose side she’s on. Wisconsin parents are practical about money, and we agree with Republican and Democratic state leaders who say there is no way Wisconsin taxpayers can afford to fund two systems of schools, public and private. If Betsy DeVos thinks we can fund strong public schools statewide and fund 262 extra private schools without allocating more state and local funding, she needs to go back to math class.”

— Stacy Lynch, Support Our Schools Wauwatosa President and Wauwatosa mom


“Wisconsin public schools and our outstanding teachers work every day to help kids from Wauwatosa to Ashland to Racine learn, grow and reach their potential. The teachers are doing this work without the resources they need to support them. Wisconsin simply can’t afford to fund our public schools plus 262 private schools that are not accountable or transparent to the taxpayers. It is a shame that the Secretary could not spend time in a Wauwatosa public school or any other public school for that matter. She would see a lot of wonderful things happening in Wauwatosa public schools if she did.”

— Dr. Eric Jessup-Anger, Wauwatosa School Board President, father of two


“The voices of public school supporters are nearing a critical mass in the United States. This was very apparent in the recent presidential debate. Hopefully, taxpayers will be provided the transparency on their tax bills to know they are funding private schools without a choice for debate or a vote to do so.”

— Chris Hambuch-Boyle, Former Educator and School Board member, Eau Claire

“I ask that Ms. DeVos please take some time to visit a typical public school to see the beauty of diversity as unsorted children learn and play together…no self-selection in or out…just the tapestry of real American children growing together under the guidance of masterful public educators.”

— Pam Streich, District Administrator, Lake Mills Area School District, Lake Mills


“Secretary DeVos should be visiting our local public schools to see the amazing things happening in them every day. If she visited with open eyes, she would see why using federal funds for private education instead of funding public schools to enhance mental health, reduce class sizes, provide quality facilities and end poverty issues adversely affects our children every day.” 

— Sandy Whisler, Citizen Advocates for Public Education (CAPE) President, Lake Mills


“Secretary DeVos should use her position and her platform to address the mental health and systemic racism and poverty issues that adversely impact our school children every day, by allocating money toward mental health experts, counselors, and psychologists to work with teachers and families to provide support.”

— Deb Galstad, 28-year veteran teacher, Lake Mills Elementary School


“Public education has and continues to be the foundation of our democracy. Any taxpayer funds diverted to private schools through vouchers tears at the fabric of our communities and public education’s ability to provide an equitable education ensuring all students have an opportunity to meet their full potential. In Green Bay we are paying out voucher funds to students who have never been in a public school. Vouchers are now taking money away from great public schools who continue to educate all children who walk through their doors.”

— Denise Gaumer Hutchison, Champions of Green Bay Public Schools member


“Secretary DeVos coming to Wisconsin to kick off any tour is an insult and a slap in the face to our teachers, our students, and our families. Our state education system, including our local school district of La Crosse, has been financially decimated by the very privatization schemes that she promotes and from which her family has profited. Her time would be better spent making sure that all the children of illegally detained adults are able to continue to attend the schools that are so often their second homes.”

— John Havlicek, Spanish teacher, President of the La Crosse Education Association


“Betsy DeVos, the Privatizer of Education, has consistently neglected  our public schools, which are the cornerstone of democracy. She clearly cares not for the children of our great society or our community in Racine. Rather, her misleading rhetoric signals her devotion to squandering taxpayer money and lining the pockets of the egregiously wealthy.”

— Angelina Cruz, educator, President of Racine Educators United


“The parents of Wisconsin overwhelmingly choose to send their children to our excellent public schools. When will Secretary DeVos take responsibility for her actual job – ensuring that the 860,000 children attending Wisconsin public schools, and all students in public schools nationwide, have the resources and support they need to succeed, rather than abusing her position in an attempt to channel additional public funds to private schools? The 8,500 kids I represent, whose parents choose to send them to our remarkable public schools in Sun Prairie, deserve better. All of America’s kids deserve better.”  

— Bryn Horton, Sun Prairie Area School District parent and school board member


“Wisconsin’s public schools face important challenges every day, and every day educators, parents and community members come together to deal with those challenges by addressing the individual needs of 800,000 children. When the country’s Secretary of Education comes to Milwaukee for a politically motivated photo op at a private school, she not only doesn’t help the vast majority of our kids, but she actually harms public education. No thank you, ma’am, Wisconsin really doesn’t need you butting in to our business.”

— Tom Beebe, Fort Atkinson, parent of two public school graduates, grandparent of four public school students, former school board member and long-time public school advocate


About Wisconsin Public Education Network (WPEN)


Wisconsin Public Education Network is a nonpartisan grassroots coalition supporting strong public schools that provide equal opportunity for all students to thrive. The Network is a project of the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Contributions can be sent to: P.O. Box 6592, Monona, WI 53716. Learn more at http://www.WisconsinNetwork.org.



September 15, 2019. View this release online here.

About the author: Wisconsin Public Education Network

Has one comment to “Wisconsin Parents Respond to DeVos Launch of “Back to School” Tour at Milwaukee Voucher School”

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  1. Peter Klitzke, School District of La Crosse, Retired - September 16, 2019 at 12:24 pm Reply

    The Betsy DeVos “Back to School” stop in Milwaukee to visit an unaccountable private school is a backhand to public schools, parents, students and tax payers all across Wisconsin and the United States.

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