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A "Stark Choice" Election on the Future of Public Education

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Source: The Nation

Tony Evers speaks in Milwaukee, June 1, 2010. (Flickr/

Debates about education policy often get muddled, especially at election time. Though school board contests across the country regularly touch on local elements of the fight over the future of public education, and though legislative contests frequently raise policy details, it is rare that voters in a high-profile statewide contest face an absolutely clear choice on a broad range of education concerns.

But in Wisconsin, where Republican Governor Scott Walker has attacked teacher unions and hacked away at education budgets, and where Walker now proposes a sweeping expansion of a controversial vouchers scheme to shift public money to private schools, voters will have a chance to register their response Tuesday.

Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, a nonpartisan official elected four years ago, is up for reelection. And he is, for all intents and purposes, running against Walker's education agenda. Evers' campaign is blunt, ripping the governor's approach as an assault on public schools, and highlighting the fact that "Tony has stood up for Wisconsin's kids and working families, fighting back against a devastating $1.6 billion cut in state funding for education."

In the thick of the campaign leading up to Tuesday's election, Evers went so far as to appear before the legislature's powerful Joint Finance Committee to call for the rejection of those portions of Walker's budget dealing with education. Noting that the governor's budget would increase state funding for voucher school initiatives by 32 percent without increasing overall school funding, Evers declared: "This has to stop. The state cannot continue to play favorites. We can and must meet our constitutional obligation to invest in all of our kids."

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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