State Superintendent Tony Evers makes no secret about his opposition to the school choice program and its expansion. "Our children are caught in the crossfire of an ideologically driven expansion of school vouchers that is financially reckless and academically unproven," said Evers in a recent statement.
But RightWisconsin has uncovered that beyond just vocally opposing the expansion of school choice, Tony Evers and the Department of Public Instruction staff used taxpayer resources to actively encourage superintendents around the state to enlist their faculty and parents to lobby against the expansion of school choice.
On May 30, Deputy State Superintendent Michael Thompson sent out the following message from Tony Evers to school administrators around the state:
From: Thompson, Michael DPI <Michael.Thompson@dpi.wi.gov>
Date: Thu, May 30, 2013 at 12:36 PM
Subject: Alert on statewide voucher expansion
Please see this important message from State Superintendent Tony Evers.
As you know, the expansion of school vouchers in the state budget has been discussed widely, and Governor Walker’s budget proposal expanded vouchers to nine school districts. Many legislators in both parties thought that expansion was unwarranted and too broad. However, Patrick Marley is reporting in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel blog post titled Republicans outline deal on school vouchers that a "compromise" has been reached to expand voucher statewide.
The Joint Finance Committee could vote on any voucher expansion proposal as early as today. It is imperative that districts, parents and communities engage on this issue and the radical change in scope immediately. We urge you to contact your legislator and legislative leaders as soon as possible today to oppose statewide expansion.
While the current proposal includes an initial enrollment caps, past history clearly demonstrates those are temporary at best (please see the attached voucher expansion history). We estimate that vouchers on a statewide scale could ultimately cost up to $1.9 billion annually, further diverting scarce resources away from public schools and increasing local property taxes.
A detailed memo on school vouchers can be found on the DPI website athttp://news.dpi.wi.gov/files/eis/pdf/vexp.pdf. Please review it and use it to engage constituents in the battle to protect public education. More information on the history of voucher expansion is attached below.
Tony Evers, PhD
With these marching orders in hand (received on their taxpayer-financed computers via their taxpayer-maintained email accounts) superintendents around the state then used their publicly funded email networks to enlist the support of publicly-funded faculty and parents to oppose the expansion of school choice.
In Plymouth, Superintendent Clark Reinke sent out a "Legislative Alert" that said, " I want to urge you to contact our legislators and other legislators on the Joint Finance Comm to voice concern about voucher expansion and the process being used to advance this policy."
Oshkosh Superintendent Stan F. Mack II did the same thing, forwarding on Evers message with his own personal appeal. "It is critical that you consider following up on the advice of State Superintendent Tony Evers and contact State legislators," wrote Mack.
A quick look at the Department of Public Instruction finds the government agency acting as the political organizing hub for opponents of school choice. Superintendent Evers has posted statement after statement opposing and deriding the choice program and there is a 17-page white paper detailing DPI's opposition to Governor Walker's proposal to expand the school choice program. And now we know that Evers' deputy was running an operation to mobilize opposition to the expansion of choice.
In effect, DPI was conducting itself like a publicly-funded lobbying organ, putting out research papers, issuing statements, and attempting to mobilize opposition.
Taxpayer-financed political organizing as standard operating procedure.