The featured speaker at a Wednesday night rally in Milwaukee in support of public schools says proposed cuts in Gov. Scott Walker's budget are nothing short of a war on education.
The proposed budget cuts $127 million dollars in public school aid, while expanding charter and voucher schools statewide. Diane Ravitch — a leading national education expert in accountability, testing and privatization — said those cuts will result in larger class sizes and cuts to the arts.
In his state budget address earlier this year, Walker highlighted his track record on property tax cuts, saying: "Property taxes by the end of 2016 will be lower than they were in 2014. That means lower property taxes for six years in a row."
Ravitch, who also served as assistant secretary of education in the George H.W. Bush administration, believes that those savings aren't worth the cost.
"If you have property tax relief, but your son or daughter is going to a school where the classes have gotten very large and then doesn’t have the opportunity for a public higher education, then that property tax relief came with a very high price tag," she said.
According to her, Wisconsin isn’t the only state seeing significant cuts to education.
"In other states, Republican governors are going right for education funding. You have to wonder, do they not believe that education is important?" she asked.
She added: "I would think that most of them went to public schools, so why are they so eager to defund public schools and take public money and give it to private entrepreneurs? It doesn’t make any sense except as a matter of ideology that is impervious to evidence."
According to Ravitch, more and more states have adopted voucher and charter school programs. But even as these schools are gaining in popularity, Ravitch said evidence shows that they do not outperform public schools.
"All of these programs that have been evaluated — in particular Milwaukee, Cleveland, and D.C. — have found that voucher students don’t do any better in the voucher schools, and they also do much worse," she said.
Hundreds of educators and concerned parents and students are expected at the rally at the MATC Cooley Auditorium in Milwaukee, which was organized by the Milwaukee Teacher's Education Association in advance of Friday's public hearing on the proposed biennial budget at Alverno College.