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Wisconsin Parents Urge DeVos to "Care" About Public Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos kicked off her 2019 Back-to-School Tour at St. Marcus Lutheran School, which serves 900 students. The administration touts the school as home of the first-ever education freedom program. (Pixabay)
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos kicked off her 2019 Back-to-School Tour at St. Marcus Lutheran School, which serves 900 students. The administration touts the school as home of the first-ever education freedom program. (Pixabay)
September 23, 2019

MADISON, Wis. — During Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' recent visit to a Milwaukee voucher school, public-school supporters showed up to protest her plans to expand similar programs nationally.

DeVos kicked off her back-to-school tour hoping to drum up support for so-called Education Freedom Scholarships, which would provide $5 billion in federal tax credits for donors who contribute to state-designated scholarship funds. But, Heather Dubois Bourenane, executive director at the Wisconsin Public Education Network, said many parents want to see more fairness in her plans.

"They just want her to care about the 860,000 kids who are in Wisconsin public schools,” Dubois Bourenane said.

DeVos visited St. Marcus Lutheran School, one of Milwaukee's largest and most successful private voucher schools. She said "the United States ranks 24th in reading, 25th in science and 40th in math in the world," as she called for changes. Friday DeVos stopped at a charter school in Detroit, and so far hasn't announced any plans to visit any traditional public schools.

Dubois Bourenane argued DeVos has no real interest in providing families with real school choice, especially after the Trump administration plans to decrease the Education Department's funding by $7.1 billion, with little evidence of their proposals showing success.

"The test scores show we're making no progress in closing the gaps between rich and poor kids, black and white kids, or students in Milwaukee and elsewhere,” she said.

Wisconsin's voucher programs now serves about 40,000 students across the state. It was initially created to give poor, black children the opportunity to escape poorly performing schools. But critics say the programs are now being used to privatize education while promoting a religious ideology.

The Trump administration's budget proposal suggests eliminating 29 public programs, including after-school and summer programs for students in high-poverty areas.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - WI