Saturday, May 18, 2024
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Saturday, May 18, 2024

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Senator Ron Johnson: Get the Facts on School Choice

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Well before becoming a U.S. Senator, I was involved as a volunteer in improving both the private and public education systems in Oshkosh. First as a member of the President’s Advisory Council for Lourdes High School, then as Chairmen of its Building Expansion Committee, and finally as a member of the Oshkosh Chamber’s Partners in Education (PIE) Council.

At Lourdes, I championed the Academic Excellence Initiative (AEI) and its mission: “How to teach more, better, easier”. Part of AEI included a capstone class on basic life skills, like financial literacy, that Oshkosh employers noted was missing and sorely needed by graduating seniors. As a member of the Chamber’s PIE Council, I helped convince the Oshkosh School System to require a financial literacy course for graduation – the first school system in the state of Wisconsin to do so. The fact that the private high school had already implemented its life skills class helped prompt the public school system to follow suit.

This experience buttressed my belief that competition within our education system would help improve both systems. This is one of many reasons why I am a strong believer in school choice.

If you stop to think of two large sectors in our economy that the public is perpetually dissatisfied with, healthcare and education, you quickly realize that the problems within both sectors have a common root cause – the benefits of free market competition have been largely driven out of each. Having competed against excellence in the private sector for over thirty years, I am well aware of those benefits – the lowest possible price, and the highest possible level of quality and customer service.

The benefits of market competition have been driven out of the healthcare system by our transition over decades to a third-party payer system where today only 10% of healthcare products and services are paid for directly by the patient.

In education, the virtual monopoly of public K-12 education, combined with the power of teacher unions, has drastically curtailed private-sector competition. Add the influence government experts through the strings it attaches to funding of both K-12 and higher education, and you get a good sense of the power stacked against competition.

The solution in education is school choice. Unfortunately, teacher unions and government have been successful at protecting their turf and limiting the number of students eligible. I strongly believe that if we allowed school funding to follow students to whichever school they and their parents chose is best for them, we would all be amazed at how quickly education would improve and the cost of education would stabilize and maybe even decline.

As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, my committee had jurisdiction over the District of Columbia, and as a result, I was able to offer more than lip service and moral support to school choice efforts. Because teacher unions exert great influence over Democrat politicians, the Obama administration was hostile to school choice, so school choice programs in Wisconsin and D.C. needed to be defended – and I did so.

In the summer of 2015, I sent letters to the Department of Justice and held a field hearing at St. Marcus Lutheran School in Milwaukee inquiring into DOJ’s 2011 investigation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. I was concerned that DOJ’s investigation appeared to be fueled by the Administration’s opposition to school choice programs, not by any wrongdoing in the Wisconsin program. One of my letters stated, “I find it especially troubling that these actions by the Administration and the DOJ may only create further harm to those students and their families who seek to escape the cycle of poverty through improved educational opportunities afforded by school choice programs like those in Wisconsin, Louisiana, and the District of Columbia.”

Later that year I co-sponsored the SOAR Reauthorization Act of 2015 to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DC OSP) and helped defeat President Obama’s budget request to wind down DC OSP, ensuring FY2016 appropriations included $15 million to continue the program. In December 2015, following my oversight efforts, the DOJ informed Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction that its investigation was closed.

In May 2017, I fought to include the SOAR Reauthorization Act in the FY2017 appropriations bill, improving DC OSP and ensuring adequate funding for the program through FY2019. In 2019, I introduced the SOAR Reauthorization Act of 2019 and held a field hearing at St. Thomas More Catholic School in Washington, D.C. to discuss the success of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program and the need for its permanent authorization.

Later that year, I introduced the SOAR Permanent Authorization Act of 2019 and protected the program from a future and potentially hostile Democrat administration by getting an extension of the program through FY2023 included in the FY2020 omnibus. In January 2021, I introduced the SOAR Permanent Authorization Act of 2021.

As you can see, my support for School Choice has been longstanding and consistently strong. It is driven by my belief that all children deserve a good education, and no child should be trapped inside a failing school. Without a good education, individuals will be less able to take full advantage of the opportunities America offers.

Unfortunately, liberals pay lip service to providing a good education for all while at the same time tying themselves to the dictates and demands of the teacher unions. Liberals also pay lip service to oppose “dark money” in political campaigns. Notably, they are silent as millions in “dark money” has been spent on false attack ads and engaging in the politics of personal destruction against me.

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Wisconsin Lawmakers Push Questions About IDs For Illegal Immigrants, Voting

(The Center Square) – Some Wisconsin lawmakers are trying to calm fears about illegal immigrants getting IDs and voting in the state.

The Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections and the Senate Committee on Shared Revenue, Elections and Consumer Protection held a hearing Thursday with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, some local election clerks and Fond du Lac County’s district attorney.

“We're not trying to get anybody into a bad spot here, or in a corner, or make accusations on that level,” Sen. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown, said. “We want our clerks, who are already stressed enough, to know that we are here to be there as an assist to them.”

Rep. Scott Krug, R-Nekoosa, said he wants to make sure voters have faith in Wisconsin’s electoral process.

“This is one of the topics that hit our inboxes quite a bit the last three months or so,” Krug added. “We thought it’s pretty important just to vet it out, to get all the information out to the public.”

The Wisconsin Elections Commission was invited to Thursday’s meeting but didn’t attend because commissioners were having a meeting of their own. But that left lawmakers’ questions unanswered.

Wis-DOT Deputy Secretary Kristina Boardman said Wisconsin is known as a strict voter ID state.

“I want to make very clear that Wis-DOT is required to provide free identification cards for U.S. citizens that request them for the purposes of voting, and that to be eligible for that free identification card one must be a U.S. citizen and at least 17 years of age,” Boardman said. “Wis-DOT staff do not determine voter eligibility or register anyone to vote. Someone who has a Wisconsin ID or a driver's license is eligible to register to vote online, and that information will be confirmed with Wisconsin DMV systems to ensure that the information entered for voter registration is consistent with the DMV's records

Boardman said in Wisconsin, less than a fraction of one percent of ID requests are fraudulent.

“We put together [a] case activity report, assemble all of the documentation that we have, we have the investigator that had the case pull that together, and we do refer that to law enforcement so that they can take whatever action is appropriate,” Boardman added. “We note what statutes we believe may have been violated. And then it's up to law enforcement to take action.”

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Senate Republicans Override Evers’ Vetoes

(The Center Square) – On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate voted to override nine vetoes from Gov. Tony Evers, including the vetoes that scuttled PFAS clean-up money, millions of dollars that were earmarked for hospitals in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls and a plan that would allow advanced practice registered nurses to work more independently.

“The legislature has passed hundreds of bills to solve problems facing Wisconsin businesses and families. Most of these bills were signed into law, but many were vetoed by a governor more focused on politics than policies that help everyday Wisconsinites,” Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said Tuesday. “Overriding the governor’s obstructive vetoes is the last, best way to address these critical issues.”

The override votes came one day after Evers sued the legislature over nearly $200 million that is attached to some of his vetoes.

Most of that money is the $125 million that’s supposed to go toward PFAS clean up in Wisconsin.

“For the fifth time this legislative session, I voted to provide Wisconsin families with the largest investment in clean drinking water in state history – five more times than every Democrat legislator in this state combined. The bill that Gov. Evers vetoed (SB 312) would have created a grant program that targets this critical funding to areas of the state most heavily impacted by PFAS contamination while protecting innocent landowners from financial ruin,” Sen Duey Stroebel, R-Cedarburg, said.

Evers has accused the legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee of obstructing his plans to clean up Wisconsin’s drinking water, and of delaying his other actions across the state.

LeMahieu said Evers is simply playing the game.

“While Gov. Evers plays politics, the legislature will continue to do the right thing on behalf of the people of our state,” LeMahieu added.

Senate Democrats responded with game-playing accusations of their own.

“Coming in to do all these veto overrides was clearly a stunt to try to appeal to voters ahead of the fall election,” Den. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, said. “Clearly Republicans were hearing from things in their district and wanted political cover. I don't think they got political cover today. I think what they got was people realizing just how afraid they are.”

But Tuesday’s veto overrides are largely symbolic.

While Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate have a veto-proof majority, Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly do not.

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Trump Holds Lead Over Biden Heading Toward November

With less than half a year until the 2024 presidential election, former President Donald Trump holds a sizable lead over incumbent President Joe Biden in several swing states.

While the overall national polling varies and shows a tighter race, Trump holds significant leads in several swing states.

According to Real Clear Politics, Trump leads in a slew of key battleground states like Arizona (+5.2), Georgia (+4.6), Michigan (+0.8), Nevada (+6.2), North Carolina (+5.4), Pennsylvania (+2.0), and Wisconsin (+0.6).

Other polling has shown Trump with a dominant lead in the Sun Belt while performing less well against Biden in some rust belt swing states.

“As the old saying goes, good gets better and bad gets worse, and it’s clear President Biden is in bad shape right now,” Colin Reed, a Republican strategist, former campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and co-founder of South and Hill Strategies, told The Center Square. “Five and a half months is an eternity in politics, and there’s theoretically still time to right the ship, but it’s getting late early for the president, especially when Father Time remains undefeated and doubts about his age continue to grow. “

According to the Real Clear Politics’ national polling average, Trump leads Biden 46.1% to 44.9%.

A New York Times poll released this week showed leads for Trump in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania but slightly trailing Biden in Wisconsin, raising concerns among supporters.

Trump’s lead has been in large part fueled by minority voters flocking to his side.

Meanwhile, Biden’s approval rating has plummeted since taking office. While that is not unusual for incumbents, Biden’s approval is lower than recent presidents.

Gallup recently released polling data showing that in the 13th quarter of Biden’s presidency, he averaged a 38.7% approval rating, worse than Trump at the same time in his term.

“None of the other nine presidents elected to their first term since Dwight Eisenhower had a lower 13th-quarter average than Biden,” Gallup said.

Axios reported this week that Biden and his team think the polls don’t represent Americans’ actual feelings and that the president’s position is strong.

“They're still 50% (well 45%) to win, per betting markets,” pollster Nate Silver wrote on X. “But Biden has been behind Trump in polls for a year now. His approval is in the tank, and voters have been clear they think he's too old. If Trump wins, history will not remember Biden kindly.”

Meanwhile, Trump spends valuable campaign time in a series of court appearances for his myriad of federal prosecution court dates.

“I’m under a gag order,” Trump told reporters after a court appearance Tuesday. “Nobody has actually seen anything like it ... I'm beating him in every poll and I have a gag order, so I think it's totally unconstitutional."

Republicans have blasted Biden for Trump’s prosecution, accusing Biden of using the Justice Department against his political opponent.

“Despite Far Left Democrats’ illegal election interference, President Trump is beating Joe Biden in the polls!” Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., wrote on X Tuesday. “Voters see right through the sham Biden Trials and know President Trump is the best choice for president.”

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