Ron Johnson hosts hearing on voucher schools amid federal probe

Erin Richards:

In an interview Monday at St. Marcus School, a voucher school at 2215 Palmer St., Johnson said a staffer brought the investigation to his attention, which prompted him to write letters to U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch this summer, asking for evidence of the basis of their investigation.

The department has declined to comment, saying the investigation is ongoing.

Johnson, who was the only member of his committee at the hearing, said he invited other members to attend and bring witnesses, but all declined.

The official speaker list, then, included pro-voucher witnesses chosen by Johnson, including two former students of voucher schools: Justice Shorter, a graduate of Messmer High School who’s now in graduate school, and Diana Lopez, a graduate of St. Anthony High School who is headed to Yale. It also included Bob Smith, former principal of Messmer; John Witte, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Richard Komer, senior attorney at the Institute of Justice.

“While participating in the parental choice program, I received the same voucher as all students, which didn’t account for the extra costs of my visual impairment,” said Shorter.

Komer said the justice department held on to the disability rights complaint in 2011 instead of referring it to the Department of Education, as is custom.