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Tim Michels says he isn’t part of the fringe that wants to end public schools

RACINE — While Tim Michels remains steadfast in his support for expanding school choice, which would bolster private education and likely weaken public school funding in Wisconsin, the Republican gubernatorial candidate says he is not part of the extreme that wants to end public schools.

Governmental support of private schools, particularly in Wisconsin, has been growing over the past decade, including through providing more tax dollars for parochial schools rather than only public schools.

This shift has perhaps no more prominent supporter than Michels. He backs a proposal that would, unless a new funding plan is established, increase taxpayer costs by $500 million to create a universal school choice program in Wisconsin. There are established school choice programs in Milwaukee and the Racine Unified School District, as well as a less-robust statewide program.

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While there remains a fringe idea among conservatives to do away with the public school system entirely, Michels’ campaign says his beliefs do not go that far.

“It’s ridiculous to assert anyone wants to end public schools,” Michel’s campaign spokeswoman Anna Kelly said in a statement to The Journal Times.

There is perhaps no difference more stark between Michels and Evers than on education.

Evers’ career has been in public education, starting as a science teacher and later being twice elected to lead Wisconsin’s public schools as superintendent of public instruction in 2013 and 2017.

Reacting to an article with the headline “Big question in the governor’s race: Should Wisconsin dismantle public schools?” incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers responded in a one-word tweet: “No.”

No. pic.twitter.com/nwYdiA8dTR

— Tony Evers (@Tony4WI) October 5, 2022

Public education advocates say support for school choice among Michels and other Republicans has damaged Wisconsin’s public schools. Public school districts are largely funded by the state based on how many students are enrolled, so having more students enrolled in private schools means less funding for public schools.



Cruz

“It’s a really complex thing,” said Angelina Cruz, president of Racine Educators United, the union that represents the Racine Unified School District’s educators. “It (school choice) is about diving in public schools and moving that money into the private sector. It’s a Ponzi scheme.”

School choice programs allow eligible students to attend K-12 private schools paid for by tax dollars. Only families making less than a certain amount of money — typically either families that earn 200% or 300% of federal poverty level, depending on where they live — are allowed to take part.

Thoughts on schooling

Public support for public schools has been falling in recent years, particularly among Republicans. According to polling from Gallup, while 61% of Republicans said they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in 1973; in 1987, their confidence had fallen to 50%; by 2022, it was down to 14%.

Polling of all Americans, not just Republicans, found confidence in public schools at 58% in 1973, 50% in 1987 and 28% in 2022.

Evers vetoed a Republican proposal during the last legislative session to expand school choice in Wisconsin, citing an estimate that doing so would cost at least half-a-billion dollars.

“School choice for all families,” Kelly said, “will increase competition and foster greater parental involvement, which will help all schools improve — public and private. Tim wants to empower parents with options to choose the school that best fits their child. He’s investing in students, not structures. He cares about the futures of children, not the bureaucrats.”

Watch now: Racine area high schoolers see what could be waiting for them if they pursue jobs in construction

Drue deVente

Drue deVente

Drue deVente, construction inspector with raSmith, speaks to Case High School students Wednesday morning at the future site of Spring Trail Condominiums from Kenosha-based developer Harpe Development, located east of the intersection at N. Stuart Road and Gina Drive in Mount Pleasant. The students visited several home construction sites during a Racine Unified School District Academies of Racine field trip.


RACHEL KUBIK,

Watch now: Village of Mount Pleasant employees explain the need for housing and construction jobs

Ron Dietzman

Ron Dietzman

Ron Dietzman, heavy equipment operator with Excavating Unlimited, speaks to Case High School students Wednesday morning at the future site of Spring Trail Condominiums from Kenosha-based developer Harpe Development, located east of the intersection at N. Stuart Road and Gina Drive in Mount Pleasant . The students visited several home construction sites during a Racine Unified School District Academies of Racine field trip.


RACHEL KUBIK

Drue deVente, Wendy Kurt and Ron Dietzman

Drue deVente, Wendy Kurt and Ron Dietzman

From left: Drue deVente, construction inspector with raSmith, Wendy Kurt, office manager with RLP Diversified, and Ron Dietzman, heavy equipment operator with Excavating Unlimited, speak to Park High School students Wednesday morning at the future site of Spring Trail Condominiums from Kenosha- based developer Harpe Development, located east of the intersection at N. Stuart Road and Gina Drive in Mount Pleasant. The students visited several home construction sites during a Racine Unified School District Academies of Racine field trip.


RACHEL KUBIK

Ron Dietzman

Ron Dietzman

Ron Dietzman, heavy equipment operator with Excavating Unlimited, speaks to Case High School students Wednesday morning at the future site of Spring Trail Condominiums from Kenosha-based developer Harpe Development, located east of the intersection at N. Stuart Road and Gina Drive in Mount Pleasant . The students visited several home construction sites during a Racine Unified School District Academies of Racine field trip.


RACHEL KUBIK,

Watch now: Ron Dietzman explains what it takes to be a construction worker

Looking at letters

Looking at letters

Students from Case High School on Wednesday morning examine Village of Mount Pleasant executive summary documents and blueprints for development at the future site of Spring Trail Condominiums from Kenosha-based developer Harpe Development, located east of the intersection at N. Stuart Road and Gina Drive in Mount Pleasant. The students visited several home construction sites during a Racine Unified School District Academies of Racine field trip.


RACHEL KUBIK

Sam Schultz and Linsey Weber

Sam Schultz and Linsey Weber

Sam Schultz, community development director for the Village of Mount Pleasant, explains to students from Case High School on Wednesday that there’s a demand for more housing and construction jobs as Linsey Weber, deputy director of Public Works, looks over documents. The students visited several home construction sites during a Racine Unified School District Academies of Racine field trip.


RACHEL KUBIK,

Drue deVente and Ron Dietzman

Drue deVente and Ron Dietzman

From left: Drue deVente, construction inspector with raSmith, and Ron Dietzman, heavy equipment operator with Excavating Unlimited, speak to Park High School students Wednesday morning at the future site of Spring Trail Condominiums from Kenosha-based developer Harpe Development, located east of the intersection at N. Stuart Road and Gina Drive in Mount Pleasant.


RACHEL KUBIK,

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