Monday, February 27, 2006

Barrett-Reynolds Axis? Money and Politics in Choice

Sorry--this will remain "G" rated.

The JSOnline story lays it out in lavender:

Partisan politics - and the history of who has and has not supported the voucher program - play a big role also.

With some exceptions, the voucher program has been supported almost from the start by Republicans, many of them from rural areas. Democratic legislators representing Milwaukee - with some exceptions - have not supported the program.

In 2001, when Republicans on the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee moved to increase the state's share of voucher funding from 55% to two-thirds, the proposal died on an 8 to 8 vote along straight party lines. Two Milwaukee Democrats, then-state Sen. Gwendolynne Moore and then-state Rep. Spencer Coggs, voted against it. Coggs, now a state senator, said in a recent interview that the increase was tied to other things the Democrats didn't support.

The two-thirds funding of vouchers would have meant that the state's share of the bill for the program would be about $10 million more this year than it actually is.

In recent cycles of legislative elections, the state teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, has campaigned against some out-state Republican incumbents with mailings claiming that those legislators were taking money away from schools in their own districts and sending it to support voucher schools in Milwaukee and charter schools in Milwaukee and Racine.

The accuracy of such statements was a matter of heated debate. A strong case was made that the schools actually saved those districts money.

What is not in debate is that Republicans took great offense, saying they were attacked for trying to help Milwaukee, and they continue to be upset.

If you're not careful, you'd almost think that MTEA/WEAC and its legislative pals, the Democrats, are punishing Milwaukee's taxpayers for MTEA/WEAC's own crimes. And you'd almost think, from reading other stories, that Tom Reynolds is an ogre.

But in THIS story, it seems that Reynolds is trying to both help the City's taxpayers AND those who wish to send their children to "choice" schools:

State Sen. Tom Reynolds, a West Allis Republican who may hold the deciding vote on whether the voucher agreement is approved, said Sunday that he is seeking a way to keep an increase in voucher students from increasing Milwaukee property taxes. Reynolds said he was waiting for answers to questions he posed to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau on how that might be done, and would consider Barrett's ideas on the subject. If Reynolds does turn out to be the pivotal vote, his stand could influence whether the tax issue is given further consideration this week.

A Barrett-Reynolds alliance?

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