Scott Walker’s Hokey Pokey

April 18, 2011 | Blog


Eliminating collective bargaining for Wisconsin public employees was all about balancing the state budget. Until it wasn’t.

Expanding the Milwaukee voucher program was all about equal educational opportunities for low-income children. Until it wasn’t.

Howard Fuller is absolutely right to threaten to “get off the stage” and refuse to strike a deal with the devil.

“I will never fight for giving people who already have means more resources. Because, in the end, that will disadvantage and squeeze out the possibility of poor parents having some of these options,” said Fuller.

This is not to say that Fuller won’t consider raising the income threshold to serve more of Milwaukee’s working poor. In the interview, he talks about aligning the requirements for entry into the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program with those of Wisconsin’s BadgerCare program, which provides health care to state residents who earn less than 300 percent of poverty. “That would capture over 80 percent of the households in the city,” he said. “So if your real objective is to expand the level of support, you could do that and still retain a focus on low-income and moderate-income families.”

But if Wisconsin and other states want to make their vouchers universally accessible to families of any income level, “it may very well be that it’s time for people like me to get off the stage,” he said. “Maybe it has to be a different movement going forward, but if that’s the way the movement has to be going forward, it’s not something that I can be a part of.”

While I disagree with Fuller’s approach to expanding vouchers rather than focusing on reform of and investment in public education, I admire his steadfast adherence to principle and his commitment to advocacy on behalf of disadvantaged children and families.

Others in Wisconsin — including UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin — need to come to the same conclusion. What YOU may think or want something to be about probably isn’t why this right-wing governor is your new friend. Just say “no, thank you.” There are alternatives that may need to wait for more thoughtful and progressive leadership in Wisconsin.

Trampling workers’ rights. Privatizing public education. THAT’s what it’s all about.

AP Photo: Andy Manis

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