The following is a teacher's story, and it is a sobering first-hand look at what really happens to teaching and learning in the for-profit voucher system. Scott Schroder posted this as a document in a facebook group he started, Stop the Decimation of Public Education - Eliminate Vouchers, and it's republished here with his permission. I am confident you'll find his story troubling and compelling, and I hope it inspires you to write your legislators and the governor and tell them you oppose subsidizing the pockets of private school financiers at the expense of our already underfunded public schools. Here's a link to actual news coverage of this situation, in case you find it too horrifying to be true. Spoiler alert: it is.
A Real Life Experience of
Racine’s Voucher Program in Action
Racine’s Voucher Program in Action
by Scott Schroder
I taught high school science at Indian Trail Academy, a public high school in the Kenosha Unified School District from 2008 until June of 2011. I absolutely loved my job and my students. Due to Governor Scott Walker’s 1.6 billion dollar budget cuts to public education, I was laid off along with more than a thousand other teachers state wide. Our school alone lost 27 teachers, yet the student population grew by over 500 students the following school year.
When I began teaching in 2008, there were many science, math, and special education jobs available in Wisconsin. When I was laid off, I couldn’t find anything. Even though I’m totally opposed to the voucher system, a new Catholic voucher high school was opening in Racine for the 2011 – 2012 school year. They offered me a position as their science teacher and head of that department. I was offered a contract guaranteeing a bi-weekly salary, health insurance, dental insurance, and vision insurance for my family and me. They also offered retirement benefits. Since nothing else was available locally, I accepted the position.
The owners "left" another Catholic school in Milwaukee and told us that they were going to be receiving a very large sum of money from the Catholic system along with the state voucher money. It turned out that the Church decided there were enough Catholic schools in Racine, so that funding never came through. Their ONLY source of income was the voucher money. How approval from the voucher system was given is anyone’s guess.
The school started out with 50 students and ended the year with 26. Some quit, most were expelled due to poor grades, discipline problems, and drug related activity. ALL of those students had to, by law, be re-admitted to the public school system, yet not one dime of the voucher money was returned to the public system.
We teachers went three months without pay TWICE during the school year, we NEVER received the benefits we were contractually promised, and there was absolutely NO accountability to the state as to how the voucher money was spent by the school and no recourse was available to us. The school still owes me over $7,500 in unpaid salary. After our first pay period, we never again received pay stubs and rumor has it, the school never sent in either state or federal withholding to the government.
Another rumor was that the two principals took out health insurance for themselves and neglected to do so for staff.
The second time we went three months without pay, I called the offices of four of our state legislators and asked if they would look into our problem and try to help us out. I called Representative Robin Vos’s office three times, Representative Cory Mason, State Senator Van Wanggaard, and Governor, ScottWalker’s office twice. Each time I called, I was promised by staffers that they would pass along the information and have the legislator call me back. The only person with the courtesy to return my call was Representative Mason. Interestingly, the other three are promoting vouchers and it would seem that they are trying to silence any bad press on this issue.
The school closed after one school year due to lack of funding, and I lost yet another job due to budget cuts and the voucher system. The only teaching position I could find this school year locally was as a substitute for the Racine school district.
At a recent state school budget hearing for the Racine school district, I shared my story to those attending and I asked Representative Vos (he is the politician who forced the voucher system on Racine) if since there was no accountability to the state as to how the school spent the voucher money if the voucher program would pay me the $7,500 I was owed and reimburse my family for the significant medical bills we incurred when we should have, by contract, been insured. Mr. Vos did not answer my question.
I know there are many more horror stories out there about the tremendous amount of faults of the voucher programs. Personally, I feel it is unethical and immoral for taxpayers to have to fund PRIVATE education. The supporters will say that since money is going to these schools, they have become “public”. This is a sham and is no more than money laundering in my opinion.