Wisconsin School Choice Week — The Proclamation That Wasn’t (Updated)

[See updates throughout.]

From Webster’s Collegiate (10th ed):

proclaim (L proclamare, pro– before + clamare to cry out):
1a: to declare publicly, typically insistently, proudly, or defiantly and in either speech or writing
2: to declare or declare to be solemnly, officially, or formally

On Saturday January 19, At some point in January 2013, Governor Scott Walker signed a proclamation declaring Wisconsin School Choice Week.  This seems to have been intended as part of the third annual National School Choice Week, which runs from Jan. 27 to Feb. 3.  You can see the proclamation here as a PDF — though it’s difficult to read, displaying at a rotation one turn too far to the right (yes, really!) [UPDATE: The proclamation linked in the previous sentence turns out to have been the 2012 version.  The 2013 version doesn’t appear to be online.]

It looks pretty solemn, official and formal.  But what about the publicly, insistently, proudly part?

Something strange is going on with this Wisconsin School Choice Week proclamation.  Public, proud proclamations from the Governor’s office in Wisconsin don’t get secretly signed on Saturdays, particularly when they highlight priority points in the gubernatorial agenda.  You’d expect them to be released for maximum news cycle timing, from the Wheeler Report to all the major news outlets statewide.

However, the Wisconsin School Choice week proclamation did not appear on the Wheeler Report, nor in any print news outlet as far as I’m aware.  As far as online news outlets go, there was an unnoticed blurb on WKOW on January 23, [UPDATE: 2012. Oops.] and then just yesterday a blogpost at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which in turn triggered a couple of subsequent posts in the progressive blogosphere.

Strangely enough, the proclamation didn’t seem to hit the conservative blogs before yesterday either, with only a few mentions after the Journal Sentinel posts.  There’s a piece up on MacIver today about National School Choice Week, and an associated whistle-stop breakfast event in Milwaukee on Wednesday, but the Wisconsin proclamation didn’t rate so much as a mention.

So what’s up?

I don’t suppose it could be embarrassment about the content of the Whereas-es within the proclamation. [UPDATE: Since this year’s version doesn’t seem to be publicly posted, I’ll leave last year’s up here, embarrassment notwithstanding.]  For example, the one that says:

WHEREAS, the cause of education reform should transcend ideology and political party affiliation

With not one, not two, but THREE former GOP speakers of the Assembly pulling in the big bucks as lobbyists for school privatization: Scott Jensen, John Gard, and now Jeff Fitzgerald?   How can that one be WHEREAS-ed with a straight face?

Then there’s this one:

WHEREAS, research in Wisconsin and across the nation demonstrates the many positive benefits of educational options.

In Wisconsin, that’s not what the test scores in Milwaukee say.

And for a nice “across the nation” summary of voucher schools failing to live up to the hype, there’s a January 2013 report from Raise Your Hand Texas that contains tidbits like this one re the New Orleans “Student Scholarship for Educational Excellence:”

An analysis of state test results by the Cowen Institute of Tulane University shows that in most grades and subjects voucher recipients in New Orleans were outperformed by students at failing public schools.

On the other hand, barely-whispering the Wisconsin proclamation may have more to do with the anti-voucher pushback that’s been coming from GOP leadership in the state senate this month.  On January 17, Senate President Mike Ellis and Senate Education Committee Chair Luther Olsen both went on record in opposition to expansion of school vouchers in Wisconsin, unless each community holds a referendum.  They proposed that the bar for such a referendum be set recall-high:

To put a voucher expansion on the ballot should require the same number of signatures as is needed in a recall, Ellis said, or 25 percent of the total votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election.

That sounds fair to me.  In fact, I think the bar ought to be equally as high for a statewide referendum on special needs vouchers, another part of the voucher expansion supported by not a single statewide disability organization, yet being prioritized behind closed doors at the Capitol (though the administration and the privatization lobbyists are keeping remarkably quiet about it when it comes to public acknowledgement of their efforts).  Let’s require the collection of  ca. 750,000 verifiable petition signatures and then a successful referendum election to inflict these “special needs scholarships” on Wisconsin public schools and our students with disabilities!  That would be a whole lot better than one rumored alternative: that special needs vouchers will be another dropped bomb, appearing in the 2013/2015 budget where such a major controversial policy change absolutely does NOT belong.

[UPDATE: Given the confusion around the 2012 Wisconsin School Choice Week proclamation, the original conclusion to this post no longer applies.  But here’s a new one:

Was the Wisconsin School Choice Week proclamation signed on the same day (January 7) as the proclamation declaring the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade to be “Protect Life Day,” as so ably documented by Rebecca Kemble and Heather DuBois Bourenane?

In my unsuccessful search for the Wisconsin School Choice Week proclamation, I also discovered that Jan. 27-Feb. 2, 2013, had been declared Catholic Schools Week, also signed on January 7.

The standard boilerplate on these proclamations appears to be: “do proclaim DATE as DAY-OR-WEEK NAME throughout the State of Wisconsin and I commend this observance to all of our citizens.”

Wouldn’t such proclamations be more… well, proclamation-ish… if our citizens actually knew about them?]

One last thing to point out about the proclamation.

Visit the proclamation PDF again, tilt your head to the right, and take a close look at the dates…

January 22-28.

Wisconsin School Choice Week is already over.

An idea whose time has passed, without anyone even noticing.

Proclaim it!

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