Booze halls, Siths and school choice expansion (AUDIO)

The Senate Committee on Financial Institutions and Rural Issues – chaired by Republican state Senator Dale Schultz – held an informational hearing today on the “fiscal and economic impact of AB 40 on rural schools and rural tax payers.”

AB 40, Governor Scott Walker‘s state budget, includes a controversial plan to expand voucher schools, or school choice. The presenters were Dr. Bambi Statz, Executive Director of the Association for Equity in Funding, and Jerry Fiene, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance. The hearing, which ran over an hour and can be viewed here on WisconsinEyewas sparsely attended.

There was a lot of information in a Power Point presentation by Statz, who has spent her career in public education, including this final point:

“The expansion of vouchers is significant social re-engineering. As such, it should be debated in public by a standing committee of the legislature and then on the floor of the full legislature. The fate of vouchers should not be buried in the 2013-2015 budget.”

Schultz and Democrat Senator Bob Jauch – the only panel members who stayed for the entire hearing (Senator Jerry Petrowski was there for part of it), agreed with her, and that produced a couple of what we in radio refer to “sound bites” that were frankly memorable. Here’s Jauch:

AUDIO: Senator Bob Jauch (:26) 

“It is not a school district’s fault that a child’s parents, who spent the night in a booze hall, who don’t provide books and homework opportunities to nurture their child. It isn’t that school’s fault that that child missed school or slept in, didn’t get on the bus, doesn’t show up at school, or comes to school late, and not ready to learn.”

And Schultz, talking about the insistence by many Republicans that they won’t vote for a budget that doesn’t include school choice expansion:

AUDIO: Senator Dale Schultz (:23)

“To simply say “unless you give me my new middle class entitlement, I’m not going to vote for the budget” reminds me of that line from the Star Wars movie Revenge of the Sith: “only Siths deal in absolutes.” Those Star Wars fans out there know where I’m coming from.”

I never saw that movie but I got where he was coming from.

The hearing – which Jauch and Schultz hope will get some viewership on “The Eye” came on the same day that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorialized against choice expansion, and a day after a pair of Republican lawmakers floated a tuition tax credit as an alternative. And that’s in addition to the plan’s shaky support in the Senate. Stay tuned.

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