By: Will Flanders & Libby Sobic
Yesterday, State Representative Lee Snodgrass created a firestorm with her Tweet, “If parents who want to have a say in their child’s education should home school or pay for private school out of their family budget.” She posted this while the Assembly Committee on Education held a public hearing AB 963, legislation to create a Parent Bill of Rights.
After being subjected to widespread derision, the Tweet was deleted, and replaced with a message that recognized the role of parents in school board and the PTO, while making a more direct attack on educational choice. However, we think the initial tweet offered a window into the thinking of opponents of education reform, and how out of step they are with the state of education in America today.
Presumably, the Representative was specifically responding to testimony from parents from around Wisconsin in support of AB 963. In an era where parents who attend school board meetings are called potential terrorists by the National Association of School Boards and subjected to monitoring by the federal government, it is more important than ever to enshrine in law the rights that parents have over their children’s education. The bill, supported by WILL, would ensure some very basic parental rights are protected: the right to be notified about violence in schools, the right to review curriculum, and the right to opt their child out of controversial topics are among them. Most of these rights are things that a previous generation never thought would need to be guaranteed: they are common sense. Yet increasingly ‘woke’ education establishment has placed them under threat. The legislature heard from more than 100 parents (in person or via written testimony) angry at this overreach by local schools, and demanding change. According to Representative Snodgrass, though, their only option would be to switch to a different educational model.
WILL’s Libby Sobic with other Wisconsin mothers who testified in Madison on the Parent’s Bill of Rights
And, once again according to the Representative, only those with significant financial resources should even have this option. This part of the Tweet showed either a huge misunderstanding of the way voucher funding works in Wisconsin, or an intentional lie. Parents in Wisconsin already do pay for the voucher program through their tax dollars. Though there are additional layers of archaic complexity, students who move to the voucher program essentially take the resources that would be spent on them in the traditional public school and move them to the school that better fits their needs.
Currently, the voucher programs in Wisconsin are only open to those for whom a private education would be almost financially impossible without the voucher—those earning up to 300% of the federal poverty limit in Milwaukee and 220% of the federal poverty limit in other parts of the state. For a family of four, this is a family income of $64,640 per year. Many middle-class families just over that threshold do not have this option and may not be able to afford to move to a higher performing school district or afford private school tuition. We wonder if the Representative would sit down with these families and come up with a budget for private school tuition after rent, car payments, and food at increasingly inflated prices is taken out of this amount?
The education establishment is increasingly on the defensive because parents have finally realized that it is not enough to hand over their children to the government and expect them to come home with a good education. The many parents who testified at the public hearing in support of AB 963 spoke not just of their own children, but of other mothers in the community who are concerned for their children and may not have a platform. A monolithic education bureaucracy, often more concerned about teaching kids to be ‘woke’ than how to read, was built on the expectation of continued parental apathy. It makes sense for the defenders of this system to be scared and lashing out irrationally as the status quo finally is shifting. The callous and out-of-touch Tweet from Representative Snodgrass merely gave us a peek behind the curtain.
A glimmer of hope may come from the news that Governor Evers put out a statement backing away from Rep. Snodgrass’ comments. But it is not clear if he will put his ‘money with his mouth is’ and support AB 963. Call us skeptical at this point.