Public school advocates make final push as education debate looms

Matthew DeFour:

(Wisconsin) Public school advocates have intensified their efforts to sway Republican lawmakers on the biggest K-12 education issues in the state budget, which are scheduled for debate Wednesday.
Heading into the holiday weekend, Republicans hadn’t reached an agreement about the most controversial proposal in Gov. Scott Walker’s 2013-15 budget proposal — the expansion of private school vouchers to Madison and other school districts around the state.
But Walker told reporters Friday he was optimistic.
“I think we’re down that path,” he said. “We haven’t got it out there to announce yet, but I think we’re going to get that into the next week.”
At least three Republican senators have said they oppose Walker’s voucher expansion, while three others say they won’t vote for the budget unless a voucher expansion is included.
Republican leaders didn’t respond to requests for comment Friday.
John Forester, a lobbyist for the School Administrators Alliance, sent a message Friday to school officials across the state to contact Republican leadership. He called the message the most urgent in his 12 years lobbying for school districts.
“The feedback I’m receiving inside the Capitol clearly indicates that our pressure is having an impact on this budget process,” Forester said.
At a news conference last week, Democrats announced that they had collected more than 16,000 signatures on a petition to remove the voucher expansion from the budget.
Madison School Board members sent out appeals to constituents asking them to contact members of the Joint Finance Committee, the lawmakers revising Walker’s budget proposal before it goes to the full Senate and Assembly.