Action Alert: Voucher Lobbyists Object to Financial Transparency Proposal

UPDATE SEPT. 19, 2023: The Committee reversed its opposition and will allow the dashboard to move forward.

Important news out of Madison! The Joint Committee on Finance has rejected a proposal from the Department of Public Instruction to include payments to private voucher schools in its public school financial transparency dashboard.

“It is rather ironic that a dashboard designed to create financial transparency be criticized for being too transparent about how school finance is operating,” Chris Bucher, a spokesperson for DPI, said on Wisconsin Public Radio.

The stated intention of this dashboard, via 2021 Wisconsin Act 89, was to require DPI to publish an accessible tool to “give taxpayers easy access to financial information about individual school and school district spending.”

But now, lobbyists for the private choice movement are trying to stand in the way of transparency by advocating for the exclusion of payments to private school vouchers in the public dashboard.

The Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) has issued a statement reacting to this development. “School district funding and finances are complex, and creating a user-friendly, simple portal for the public is no easy task. To accomplish this, the act created an 11-person advisory committee to advise DPI on the portal’s development, including recommendations on what information would be featured. The committee was made up of six Republican appointees, three Democratic appointees and two appointees by State Superintendent Jill Underly. The committee included state Sens. Jeff Smith (D-Brunswick) and Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville),” the WASB statement says.

Despite that committee’s unanimous recommendations, a school choice coalition has halted the approval process by opposing public financial transparency for private voucher schools.

Transparency and accountability should apply to ALL schools receiving public funds. Private schools that receive tax dollars through the voucher program should not be exempt from public scrutiny or allowed to bury their records.

It’s time to hold voucher schools accountable to the public and to the families they serve. Wisconsin deserves to know where the $444 million we gave to private schools last year alone is really going, and how much money public schools really spend to cover mandated costs for private schools.

If you have an opinion on this, make sure your lawmakers know! And let us know when you contact your legislators so we can amplify your message.

About the author: Christian Phelps

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