I'm writing this email from a hotel room in San Diego after pouring our new beer "Love Wins" at the Equality Wine Fest in Palm Springs--a festival featuring LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and women-owned winemakers.
As I sit and watch the sun set over the ocean, it's kind of hard to believe that California and Wisconsin are part of the same country. I see so much progress here, but in my home state I see a gun constantly aimed at our feet, wondering when our next self-inflicted wound will occur.
Last Wednesday, the statewide Marquette poll was released that asked Wisconsin voters to choose between adding state support for school vouchers or enhancing support for public schools. An overwhelming 71% opted for bolstering our public schools and a mere 28% favored vouchers. Wisconsin’s collective belief in public education remains unshaken.
Nevertheless, our public schools find themselves on precarious financial footing--their survival threatened by years of relentless underfunding by Republicans in the Legislature.
Let's put this into context.
The Wisconsin government has a staggering $7 billion budget surplus. Yet thanks to the Republicans in the Legislature, our public schools face the prospect of another two years of financial starvation.
It's a paradox that hurts the stomach. We possess the resources, yet we're on the brink of failing our kids AGAIN--the vast majority of whom rely on public schools. For a staggering 14 years, our public schools have been grappling with funding that hasn't kept up with inflation while vouchers leech away more and more resources. Budget cycle after budget cycle we have been told that we don’t have the money to invest in public education, and now when we clearly do, Republicans have once again pulled the rug out from under us.
Clearly, these guys have given up any pretenses and are admitting they have having been lying all along. The budget just passed by the Republican Legislature will result in fewer than 60% of public school districts seeing ANY bump in state aid - and any bump public school systems DO GET is far less than an inflationary increase for most districts. A whopping 39% of districts will get LESS state aid than last year. To make matters even worse, districts that have failed in school funding referenda will bear the added burden of state law restrictions on per-pupil increases, meaning even less money. This crippling cycle of austerity has led to school closures, staff layoffs, and entire districts teetering on the edge of collapse.
This all while voucher schools are seeing an historic increase in funding that will result in many private schools receiving more aid per pupil than the public schools in their same areas.
The state budget is now in the hands of Governor Evers who has promised to use as many line-item vetoes as possible to try and reshape it into a better document.
As a SuperPAC, our hands are tied from directly communicating with Governor Evers, meaning his plans for navigating the Wisconsin state budget remain opaque to us. That being said, we're desperately hoping he's got a few tricks up his sleeve and is playing an intricate game of chess instead of having been woefully out-negotiated by the Republicans.
This is what we mean.
We're really hoping that the only reason Govern Evers gave away the farm on school vouchers (as part of a deal with Republicans to save Milwaukee from fiscally imploding) was because he knew that WE WOULD HAVE HIS BACK with a lawsuit to end the school voucher system altogether...
...and that our lawsuit would WIN because the first HONEST Wisconsin Supreme Court in decades would agree with us.
In other words, we're going to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that he had confidence that we'd kill the voucher system in court, and thus bought Milwaukee's fiscal salvation with fake voucher money that would never see the light of day.
And if that's true, then we think Governor Evers' is a pretty smart guy. If it's not true, and Evers' was out-negotiated, the outcome is really no different. Saving public schools from being gutted by vouchers is no longer going to happen within the executive branch. It has to be done in the courts, and we're building the lawsuit that will get that done.
Now for those of you living outside of Wisconsin, you may wonder why this matters to you.
Wisconsin has historically been a bellwether for policy, both good and bad. The first voucher program in America originated here in the 1990s before spreading nationwide. If we can curtail the voucher program at its birthplace, we can create the blueprint for countering it across the country.
Thanks to your support, we engaged a top-tier Harvard trained lawyer who has previously triumphed against vouchers in other states. He stands shoulder-to-shoulder with us in our belief that a flourishing public school system is the lifeblood of a thriving democracy. Together, we are laying the groundwork for our lawsuit against the private school voucher system that has been draining our public schools for decades.
Your contributions made this possible, and when we figure out how much this lawsuit is going to cost, I'm going to ask you for a lot more money to fund it. But until then, we're going to keeping beating the drum with statistics that clearly show that Wisconsin Republicans are shooting our public education system in the foot, again and again and again.
Thank's for reading, and thanks for sticking with us. Together, we will disarm these Republicans playing Russian Roulette with our state, one beer at a time.
Owner, Minocqua Brewing Company
Founder, Minocqua Brewing Company SuperPAC