Wisconsin

Mark Pocan’s School Voucher Hatred Goes National

Policy

Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan (D-Black Earth) has never been a fan of school voucher programs both in the Badger State and nationally; now he’s going to have his own taxpayer-recognized clubhouse to say so.

On Tuesday, Pocan’s war with school vouchers continued when he was introduced as a founding member of the House Public Education Caucus. The caucus, which according to the Huffington Post has currently fewer than a dozen members, looks to a “Who’s Who” of noted voucher opponents. Right off the start, members of the caucus made no qualms that their entire purpose was to target president-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of the Department of Education, school choice advocate and philanthropist Betsy DeVos.

Pocan, D-Black Earth, announced the creation of the House Public Education Caucus on Tuesday, alongside national teachers unions presidents Lily Eskelsen Garcia of the National Education Association and Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers, and other Democratic members of the U.S. House.

“Mark feels like people in Wisconsin, where the K-12 voucher experiment was tested, need to be talking about the impact it has had on public schools, teachers, teacher retirements/shortage and education in general,” said spokeswoman Melanie Conklin in an email.

Being bookend by the heads of America’s two major teacher’s unions is rather telling by itself. Even while in the state legislature, Pocan was never one to shy away from carrying the water of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. Not surprisingly, that has paid off handsomely for Pocan’s congressional campaign coffers.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, since joining Congress in 2013, Pocan has been able to count on the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers among his biggest donors. As the chart shows, both Pocan’s congressional campaign and his political action committee, Blue Majority PAC, have been more than willing recipients of federal teachers’ union dollars.

 

The formation of a House Caucus is just the latest in tactics Pocan has used throughout his political career to attack school choice. As a state representative, Pocan was often the leading advocate calling for the elimination of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. While crafting the 2009-11 biennial state budget, he nearly succeeding in downsizing the program.

Naturally Pocan’s opposition to vouchers has continued as a congressman; using his time in D.C. to become a leading advocate for meritless investigations and lawsuits by the Obama Justice Department into voucher programs in Louisiana (withdrawn in 2013) and Milwaukee. In 2014, he along with Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee) called for a federal investigation and study of the Milwaukee voucher program by the Government Accountability Office and Department of Justice.

That investigation was quickly criticized by Wisconsin conservatives both in the media and through think tanks.

Last month, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty released a study showing that since its inception, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program has had a $500 million economic benefit to Wisconsin. Pocan’s office has not bothered to comment on the study, only to parrot teacher union talking points which criticize voucher programs as “stealing resources from public schools”

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