Mike Ellis the Pharaoh

A billboard created by a tea party group depicts Senate President Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, as an ancient Egyptian pharaoh.

What would it take to convince Senate President Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, a longtime skeptic of private school vouchers, that he should push for a much more dramatic expansion of school choice than is currently proposed in the budget?

Ellis was apparently unconvinced by Gov. Scott Walker’s claim that expanding school choice will offer improved educational opportunities for low-income students in “failing” public schools.

If policy arguments aren’t resonating, it might be time to turn to the Old Testament.

A tea party group in Ellis’ district recently erected a billboard depicting the veteran senator as an Egyptian pharaoh. Accompanying the ancient monarch is a baby meant to resemble the baby in E-Trade ads.

The board’s call to action: “Set our children free!”

The group set up two other billboards with the same message for Senate Education Committee Chair Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, and Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Allouez. Both are also depicted as pharaohs.

“There’s not a direct connection when you think of the children of our time and the Jewish children (of ancient Egypt), but from the standpoint of freedom of choice and ‘let my people go,’ that’s the key phrase that we think has some application here,” explains Ed Perkins, president of the Fox Valley Initiative, the tea party political action committee responsible for the ads.

Perkins used to sit on the board of the Lutheran Urban Mission Initiative in Milwaukee, an association of Lutheran schools that participate in that city’s voucher program.

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He says the Fox Valley Initiative members think the compromise on vouchers that was reached between Walker and Senate moderates such as Olsen and Ellis does very little to actually increase opportunities for students. The statewide expansion would be limited to 500 students next year — a figure that represents less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the state’s students.

Parody and bizarre caricatures are coming at Ellis from the left as well. Footage of Ellis repeatedly pounding his gavel and yelling at senators for speaking out-of-turn during a vote on a bill requiring women to receive an ultrasound before an abortion was too good for One Wisconsin Now, a liberal advocacy group, to pass up. On its Facebook page, OWN doctored an image of Ellis, replacing his gavel with an ultrasound wand.

In another creative effort in response to the ultrasound legislation, OWN unveiled a promotional poster for a fictional TV show, “Inspect Her Gadget,” starring Walker and Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, who is ardently opposed to abortion.