WASHINGTON, D.C. – If at first you don’t succeed, get a federal agency to do your bidding.
That’s what two former state Democratic lawmakers, turned U.S. Representatives are doing. On Friday, Cong. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) and Cong. Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee) along with Iowa Democrat Dave Loebsack sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) asking for the federal agency to investigate Wisconsin’s school choice program.
During their time in the state legislature, both Pocan and Moore were noted defenders of unionized education and the status quo. So the idea that the pair really wants to better the program in any way, shape, or form is suspect at best. If anything, Pocan’s letter is fairly straight in its intentions: To have another federal avenue bring an end to the oldest, largest school voucher program in the United States. Already, the Obama Administration’s Justice Department has been trying to claim in recent years that the program in Milwaukee discriminates against students with disabilities.
What Pocan’s letter fails to mention is that DOJ’s action in Wisconsin is very similar to one in Louisiana and its voucher program; a lawsuit that was ‘abandoned’ in November 2013. But, why would that keep a loyal soldier of WEAC like Pocan from his mission?
In fact, much of Pocan’s request to the GAO is full of half-truths, hidden agenda items, and doublespeak. For instance, Pocan notes that this would be the first GAO audit of the Milwaukee (and now statewide) School Choice / Voucher programs since 2001.
While correct, he leaves out basic facts about the 2001 audit. The first is how it was used to build support for more voucher programs, particularly the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Pocan’s letter also doesn’t mention how the 2001 audit was requested by former U.S. Sen Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire) to get the DC program up and running with the likes of former Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Joe Liebermann (D/I-Connecticut).
Pocan’s office of course knows this, why else mention the two other GAO audits the agency has conducted on the Opportunity Scholarship Program?
Secondly, Pocan and Moore want to know about the level ‘of accountability for publically funded vouchers?’ That’s a rather funny one, since every two years, the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau issues a report on Milwaukee voucher schools test scores as part of its biennial report. The most recent one, was issued in January 2013.
Guess Pocan’s staffers missed that one while moving into their new Washington, D.C. offices.
Finally for Pocan to charge that the state’s voucher program discriminates is as disingenuous as it gets. He has to know of recent attempts in the most recent legislative session to create a “Special Needs Voucher” program by state Sens. Leah Vukmir and Alberta Darling and state Reps. Dean Knudson and John Jagler. While the legislation failed to pass in 2014, it looks to return in 2015.
If Pocan and his staff want to claim ignorance to all these new initiatives in Wisconsin’s voucher program since joining the Congressional delegation in 2012 they’re well within their right. It just will look incredibly duplicitous sincemuch of Pocan’s 2014 re-election campaign’s communications strategy was about attacking Scott Walker in Madison, than attacking Republicans in Washington, D.C.
Perhaps what this letter really tells us, is that Pocan misses his old job in Madison. After all, being stuck in a near permanent House Democratic minority has got to be incredibly dull. Why else would he be so eager to do the teachers unions’ dirty work when he clearly couldn’t accomplish it when he served in the state legislature back home in Wisconsin?
Authored by Kevin Binversie
Originally published at rightwisconsin.com
Published with permission