Residents raise concerns about school vouchers, transportation

Written by Nathan Vine, Stevens Point Journal Media

 

Residents came out Thursday to talk to their local representatives about Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed 2013-15 budget.
 
State Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, and Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, held office hours together in Stevens Point, Amherst and the village of Plover.
 
Sue Hall of Stevens Point came with concerns about Walker’s proposed expansion of the school voucher program and what effects that would have on public education.
 
Lassa said the proposal is troubling, especially after the $1.6 billion Walker cut out of education in his previous budget and with no increase in this budget.
 
“It’s sending us, as a state, in the wrong direction. You’re creating almost dual publicly funded school systems,” Lassa said. “Proponents say those vouchers will help public school students who are locked in a failing school, but if there’s a waiting list, they don’t go to those students but to those in prinvate schools first.”
 
Shankland said while the issue likely would be passed by the Assembly, it could face some difficulty getting out of the Senate.
 
“If there’s one thing that’s possible to change in the budget, it’s school vouchers. We’ve seen already that there are some Republicans in the Senate who have issues with it,” Shankland said. “You’re creating a separate but unequal system, because these schools don’t have Common Core standards and don’t even require background checks for teachers. If they get state money, they should be following the same standards.”
 
Another area of concern was Walker’s plan to borrow more than $1 billion, primarily for transportation projects. Bob Fisch of Stevens Point, who organizes Poky Pedaling, a series of informal bike rides around the community, noted that transportation funding for nonmotorized transportation was cut in the budget from $26 million to $13 million.
 
“I think it’s imprudent not to give people more options to get around in their community,” Fisch said. “My request would be to restore funding to at least what it was in the previous budget.”
 
Shankland said there is no reason if the state was going to borrow that much money that it couldn’t fund programs as it did the last budget. Lassa questioned the cut when there is a national obesity epidemic and people are being encouraged to live healthier lifestyles.
 
Victor Alvarez, of Stevens Point, discussed a bill being considered that would create a veterans-themed lottery game to help with funding for the Veterans Trust Fund. Alvarez, a veteran of the Vietnam War, said he would like to attend any hearings on the bill held by the Legislature in the future.
 
“We need to find new ways to bring money into that fund, and there is support for this idea,” Alvarez said.