The Fund for Choices in Education has donated a lot of money to supporters of the Milwaukee School Choice program. Indeed a lot of the checks they write to individual candidates have commas in them and all told they gave tens of thousands of dollars to candidates in the 2004 election cycle. It would seem it netted them some pretty quick action in the legislature too.
You would be hard pressed to find a bill that moved through the legislature faster than AB3, a bill to eliminate the caps on the Milwaukee School Choice Program. The legislature was barely in the door from the January 3rd inauguration when AB3 was introduced on January 11, 2005. It was passed by the Joint Finance Committee only a week later with a fiscal note that ranged from $3.2 million to $6.5 million for state GPR money depending on how many students enrolled in the program after the cap was lifted.
It was then sent to the Education Reform Committee where it sailed through only two days after it was passed by the Joint Finance Committee. A week later, it passed on the floor of the Assembly and was sent to the Senate.
The Senate wasted no time in taking up the bill and sent it to the floor on February 8th. The Senate even refused to send the bill to the Senate Education Committee and instead went ahead and passed the bill on February 8th.
The bill moved through both chambers in less than a month total, which is really fast for the state legislature. But then, the Fund for Choices in Education made some very educated choices on where to send their campaign dollars.
Both Speaker John Gard and then Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, the two men in charge of getting their Republican colleagues elected and in control of which legislation would come to the floor in the next session, received large donations from the Fund for Choices in Education conduit in the height of election season. Speaker Gard received $1,175 on September 15th, 2004 to bring his year total from the conduit to $2,825. Senator Fitzgerald received $3,000 just days after he was elected Majority Leader and $2,000 more a week later to bring his year total to $6,000 from the group.
The Fund for Choices in Education also made sure that all of Speaker Gard's and Senator Fitzgerald's top election targets received large donations as well. The largest recipient was Senator Kapanke (R-LaCrosse) with $9,000 for 2004. Senator Kapanke received donations from the group as large as $2,000 and $3,000 at a time. He not only voted for passage for AB 3, he voted against even sending the bill to the Senate Education Committee. Perhaps as a new senator he thought all bills moved this fast, didn't usually go to committee, and had a price tag no one could be sure of even though the state had a deficit.
The Fund for Choices in Education is funded by some of the same folks we see currently working to make sure the Milwaukee School Choice Program is expanded with no additional accountability. The Walton family is major part of the conduit and is also trying to fund a 'study' of the Milwaukee program done by folks that support the voucher system which will take ten years to complete. They do not seem to mind that in ten years thousands of children could go through schools that will not do a good job preparing them for the future. It will be too late to help those children but the program will be firmly cemented in without accountability by then, and that's really the goal here.
They have gotten what they wanted in record time in the past. Hopefully they will not succeed this time.
You can find the bill history here
. The Wisconsin State Elections Board ID number for the conduit is #900152.