Willing to Lose the Battle in Order to Win the War

Willing to Lose the Battle in Order to Win the War

“The stories of past courage…can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this, each man must look into his own soul." –John F. Kennedy
As many of you read last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court denied my team’s petition to bypass Wisconsin’s lower courts and have them directly hear our lawsuit to end the parasitic private school voucher system in Wisconsin.
My legal team believed that there was a chance we could short circuit this process and save a LOT of time and money with an “original action” to the Supreme Court. 

Why? Because Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction, a de-facto defendant in this case, has already published irrefutable evidence that the state voucher system siphons money away from our public schools and creates an unequal, an thus unconstitutional, two-tiered education system.

We knew it was a long-shot, but for reasons I analyzed a few weeks ago, there were a LOT of political headwinds that seemingly stopped this case from being fast-tracked.

In her opinion piece last Friday analyzing Wisconsin's Supreme Court decision and Governor Evers' lack of support for our lawsuit, the Wisconsin Examiner's Editor-in-chief, Ruth Conniff, wrote something that really stuck with me. 

"...in the rejection of the lawsuit attempting to address the existential threat posed by Wisconsin’s metastasizing private school choice program to public schools, Democrats and progressives calculated that it’s too costly to stick up for the public interest."

Conniff's words inspired me to Google some of my favorite American leaders and look for inspiration on how THEY might have approached our case had THEY been Wisconsin's Governor or our Supreme Court Majority.

JFK's quote, "...[to find courage], each man must look into his own soul," hit the mark.

At some point in Wisconsin, our progressive leaders must find the courage to start looking at the horizon of possibility instead of too-often checking the rear-view mirror of disaster-prevention and self-preservation.

"...and if he fails," suggested Teddy Roosevelt, "at least [he] fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."


Speaking of victory, you probably haven’t heard about the two bills that were VERY RECENTLY introduced by REPUBLICAN legislators: AB688 and SB652.
If you don’t want to dive into the details, just know that I’m going to call these bills a small “victory” for our side.
This legislation would remove private voucher school funding from the public school tax levy and force Wisconsin’s private school voucher programs to be funded through “General Purpose Revenue” (GPR).
In other words, these bills would “decouple” the existing relationship between public school and voucher funding, which is essentially “robbing Peter” (public schools) to “pay Paul” (private schools).
Now don’t get me wrong, there is a LOT OF BAD STUFF that remains in these two bills:

  1. They would allow more than a decade to “sunset” the current parasitic voucher funding mechanisms, which is WAY TOO LONG
  2. They STILL provide public funding (your tax dollars) for largely unregulated private schools.
  3. They would add no additional funding to public schools. 

BUT…the most sinister (and previously hidden) element of voucher school funding—robbing money from the public-school tax levy to pay for private school vouchers—would be fixed.
Why am I claiming victory when we just got bounced from the Supreme Court back to the lower courts?
These bills wouldn’t have been introduced to the Wisconsin legislature had we not filed our petition with the Wisconsin Supreme Court when we did, and they may actually get voted into law before our lawsuit gets through the courts.
And why do I KNOW this legislation wouldn’t have been created were it not for our lawsuit? Because one of Wisconsin’s worst and most cynical political actors, the right-wing law firm named “Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty,” admitted it.
In their recent article explaining this legislation, they mentioned that “ this change would help to insulate the school choice program from constitutional challenges,” and said that “there is a danger that an unfriendly state Supreme Court may creatively interpret the circuitous route which funding takes as somehow interfering with the funding of public schools. Removing the connection to property taxes in the current system would remove this potential argument against the constitutionality of the program.”
Yes, the deep-pocketed voucher school lobby knows we’re marching forward with the intent to win, knows our legal arguments are viable, and are telling their Republican shills in the state legislature to change private school voucher funding laws as a result.

Now, what CAN’T happen is that we run out of money to keep pushing these Republicans to do the right thing, and maybe even make these two bills BETTER for public schools.
We’re planning to re-file our lawsuit in circuit court this January, and I believe it will now take, at a minimum, 9 months to get a decision.
This suit, because it was bounced down to a lower court, will cost a lot more money than we had hoped. I estimate that we will need to raise another $100K to keep the anti-voucher train on the tracks over the course of this next phase.

Because I can see victory on the horizon, I refuse to give up. The folks on this list have come through for Wisconsin time and time again, and I hope you can come through again for this lawsuit. Here is the link to donate.

That being said, I recognize that I might not be able to fund this thing alone simply by writing emails and posting Teddy Roosevelt quotes on social media. I think that shoring up Wisconsin's public schools is going to require more teamwork, so yesterday I ventured out of my comfort zone and emailed some institutional Democratic donors and asked them for help. Hopefully I'll have some partnerships to announce in the coming weeks that will take the pressure off of those of you who read my weekly missives.

That's all I've got for now.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for sticking with the Minocqua Brewing Company.

Together, we can show our progressive leaders what courage looks like, and hopefully inspire them to risk losing a few battles in order to win the war.

Kirk Bangstad
Owner, Minocqua Brewing Company
Founder, Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC

Back to blog