“Stop trying to kill public education.”

     That headline above a Jan. 5, 2017 Milwaukee Journal opinion column by former reporter Jack Norman succinctly conveys the sentiment of what a two-track, taxpayer-financed education system will do for Wisconsin.

     State vouchers given to parents to pay for private-school tuition thwart taxpayers’ ability to maximize the return on their generous investments in a single public school system.

     ... There is no need to dilute this effort by diverting taxpayer dollars to subsidize private school students, some of whose parents previously paid 100 percent of their tuition.

     This is not an anti-competition rant.

     School choice is terrific, enabling parents to seek out the public school that best suits their child’s needs and abilities. This encourages school boards across the state to up their games, aspiring to provide a high quality educational program to assure that, like the Ripon Area School District, they are a net importer of students.

     Next Tuesday, Wisconsin voters will go to the polls to winnow a slate of three candidates to head the state Department of Public Instruction down to two.

     Believing that a single publicly financed education systems is sensible for a state that doesn’t have a double set of highways, two capitol buildings or a pair of Department of Revenues (thank goodness!), we support the one candidate running who opposes deconstructing the state’s public schools.

     Incumbent State Superintendent Tony Evers ... alone, supports improving our public school systems, not bypassing them by channeling public dollars to private- and religious-schools that are less accountable, unproven, often blur the church-state separation and siphon what should be a single, focused, financial commitment to K-12 education for all students.  

     ... Ripon Republican state Sen. Luther Olsen told an Associated Press reporter that he favors — though doesn’t endorse — Evers.
Olsen’s explanation?

     “I just am not sure we need a change,” the state Senate education committee chairperson said. “I don’t see a need.”

     ... Olsen is right; no comprehensive change is necessary in the state’s public education system.

     ... Here in Ripon, last week’s candidate forum showed that a similar discussion continues on the matter of whether the Ripon Area School District needs two sets of schools, legacy vs. charter, where some students are randomly placed regardless of needs or abilities, and a lottery is used to determine which lucky students are admitted to the charter track despite dramatic demographic and achievement disparities.

     Public school students in Wisconsin and in Ripon deserve the best, publicly supported education taxpayers can afford.

     No diversion of education money — to exclusive charters or to voucher-subsidized privates — should be acceptable to proponents of a public school movement originally designed to provide equal opportunities for all children.
                                   — Tim Lyke

     To read the entire editorial, see the Feb. 16, 2017 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.