Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke said Tuesday that if elected, she would eliminate the new statewide voucher program and private school tax deduction in the next budget.
Burke, a Madison School Board member, previously said she didn’t support the statewide voucher program.
In response to a question at a Wispolitics.com luncheon at the Madison Club about what she would cut in the next state budget, Burke went further, calling statewide vouchers “a new entitlement program we frankly don’t need.” She also identified the private school tax deduction as something she would cut.
“I respect people’s choice in making that, but I don’t think we should be subsidizing that choice,” Burke said, referring to sending children to private schools.
Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign issued a statement in response to Burke’s comment.
“Gov. Walker believes every child, regardless of ZIP code, deserves access to a great education, and parents should have the right to choose the best educational environment for their children, whether it’s a public, private, charter or home school,” spokeswoman Alleigh Marre wrote in an email.
Both the tax deduction and the statewide voucher program were introduced in the 2013-15 budget signed by Walker.
The voucher program is capped at 500 students this year and 1,000 students next year for a total biennial cost of $10.7 million. Next year it provides a taxpayer-funded voucher worth $7,210 in grades K-8 and $7,856 in high school for participating students.
More than 2,400 students applied this year for the program, which is limited to families making up to 185 percent of the poverty level. Three out of four students in the program this year were previously enrolled in a private school, which Burke cited as a reason why the program is an unnecessary subsidy.
The K-12 private school tax deduction is estimated to cost $30 million per year. It allows taxpayers to deduct private school tuition up to $4,000 for each K-8 student and up to $10,000 for each high school student beginning in the 2014 tax year.
Burke said she does not support ending the Milwaukee voucher program, which was created in 1990 and has expanded to more than 25,000 students. Her spokesman also clarified that she would not cut the Racine program, which Walker and the Legislature created in 2011.
Burke said education is a key point of contrast between herself and Walker, specifically her support for the Common Core state standards and more money for public schools. She also said she and the governor differ on women’s health care and raising the minimum wage.
She criticized Walker’s record on job creation, saying she would focus on replicating strategies that have worked in regions of the state that have seen greater economic growth than the national average.
The state Republican Party has criticized Burke for not proposing her own jobs plan. Executive director Joe Fadness said Tuesday “if she can’t deliver a jobs plan after five months of campaigning, voters should be concerned about her priorities.”
Burke told reporters after the event that she would release a jobs plan within the next month.
Burke took questions from attendees for nearly an hour, covering a range of topics, many of which she has addressed before.
She took a firm stance against a voter photo ID requirement that Walker has said should be the subject of a special legislative session this year pending the outcome of a state Supreme Court decision.
“There is nothing that shows that this is necessary at all,” Burke said. “This is voter suppression and politics. It’s nothing other than that.”
She also said she had no regrets about her first campaign ad, which was criticized by Republicans and others for suggesting unemployment has increased under Walker. The ad said unemployment was at 6.1 percent, but was at 4.8 percent when she was Commerce Secretary from 2005 to late 2007.
“In anyone’s book that’s an increase,” she said, but when pressed about unemployment going down since Walker took office, she acknowledged that’s also true.