There is a false perception out there concerning school vouchers and Governor Doyle’s position. We can thank talk radio, deceptive commercials and spinning Republican press releases for that. Governor Doyle has never stated that he wanted to eliminate the school choice program. I defy any lurking conservative to direct me to that quote. Another important point to remember, is that the current cap of 15,000 students in the school choice program was a Tommy Thompson era cap. This is not Doyle’s cap and I don’t recall Scott McCallum ever raising or totally lifting that cap. Was he also "standing in the schoolhouse door?"
All reports that I have seen, show that Doyle has wanted to increase the amount of students in the school choice program. He has also wanted to impose some sort of accountability so that we can ensure that the students are getting a good education. I will never understand why that appears to be such a crime to Republicans. Doyle initially suggested increasing the program by 3,000 students. What is the Republican response to a reasonable offer? Assembly Speaker John Gard (R-Peshtigo) has all but said he will not accept anything but a total elimination of that cap. He must have failed Negotiations 101 since I thought that a key in that class was that BOTH sides concede a little and try to meet in the middle.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports today that Doyle met with Gard and other school choice advocates yesterday. It appears that Doyle (ONCE AGAIN) is the one trying to negotiate in good faith. The story reports that he is now willing to increase the program by 5,000 students. The story also reveals that Gard may actually be willing to finally compromise. It appears that he may be willing to give up his all or nothing approach to this issue and settle on an increase of 10,000. Gard’s sudden desire to compromise might be because a key choice proponent (ACE) has said that it would drop it’s advocacy for a total removal of the caps in exchange for an increase of 10,000.
There does appear to be some confusion as to whether the Governor has committed to the 10,000 student increase. ACE believes that he did make this promise based on second and third hand information. Doyle’s spokesperson states that the Governor has not made that offer to anyone. In any case, Governor Doyle has been clearly negotiating in good faith all along.
It seems that when ACE advised John Gard that it would support the 10,000 student increase, that he finally decided to give up his all or nothing approach. Let’s hope that ACE continues to be a reasonable voice in these negotiations. Republicans want all or nothing on this issue so that they can use it against Doyle politically. If the goal is really to increase the choice program, then I hope that ACE will continue to negotiate in good faith, thus forcing Republicans to do the same. Doyle has increased his offer at least twice at this point. He has shown willingness to resolve this issue. If ACE is willing to negotiate between the 5,000 and 10,000 student figures, there is a very good chance that everyone can benefit.