Former State Senator John Lehman should apologize to Racine families for his misleading statements on the Racine Parental Choice Program (RPCP), the school choice program that allows students from low-income and working class families to attend a participating private school of their parents’ choice.
While speaking last week at a 21st Senate District candidates’ forum, Lehman claimed that private schools participating in the program were for-profit and fly-by-night entities taking advantage of RPCP, according to the . However, schools participating in the program are not-for-profit entities and some of the most respected schools in the city. Nearly 230 scholarship students are being educated through RPCP schools in the current school year. And next year, even more families have applied to the limited 500 scholarships available in the second year of the program.
Lehman’s comments were extremely irresponsible, and he should apologize to both Racine families and the private schools for mischaracterizing the Racine Parental Choice Program. The program is not only popular among Racine residents, but it offers an educational lifeline to students from low-income families. Characterizing this program as a scheme that will hurt families is not true and diminishes the integrity of educational options for Racine families.
This is not the first time that Lehman failed to accurately portray educational options in Wisconsin. He recently claimed a lack of high accountability standards and academic attainment levels of Wisconsin’s two voucher programs to the Wisconsin State Journal’s Recall Election Guide. Lehman states that he wants to discontinue “funding charter and voucher schools, which are unaccountable to the taxpayer and continually underperforming compared to public schools.”
John Lehman has now incorrectly portrayed the quality schools participating in the Racine voucher program, and insinuated that our state’s two voucher programs lack accountability and academic achievement. Both parental choice programs require high accountability standards, including standardized testing, public reporting of student progress, and proof of financial viability for schools. In addition, independent evaluations have shown significant academic achievement in the Milwaukee program.
Created last year, the RPCP serves 228 students from low-income and working-class families living in the Racine Unified School District. In the program’s second year, more than 500 applications have been received for the limited 500 seats available under the program. The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program is serving more than 23,000 students this year.
Last year, my organization released a poll showing that 55 percent of likely voters within the Racine Unified School District favored school choice with just 33 percent opposing. Further, participants rated the performance of Racine’s private schools higher than the assigned public schools.
John Lehman should apologize to these schools, and the students attending them, for his reckless accusations.
Wisconsin Government Affairs Associate
American Federation for Children