Burke bashes private school vouchers, praises Common Core in speech to superintendents



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MADISON, Wisconsin — Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke bashed the statewide private school voucher program and reiterated her full support for the Common Core standards in a speech to Wisconsin school leaders on Friday.

Burke, speaking at the annual meeting of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, drew clear lines between her educational policies and those supported by her opponent, Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Burke derided the statewide voucher program — which makes taxpayer money available to pay for a private school education — as bad public policy, a line that drew applause from the public school district administrators and superintendents.

"They are a drain on our public school system at a point in which we have very, very limited resources," Burke said.

She does support keeping the voucher program in Milwaukee, where it began in 1990 as the first of its kind in the nation, as well as in Racine. But she wants to undo the statewide program, which started under Walker just two years ago.

This year, enrollment is limited to 1,000 students in the statewide program. Walker has said he wants to raise the caps if re-elected.

Walker, and other supporters, argues that giving taxpayer subsidies to pay for a private school education helps poor students escape failing public schools, giving parents more options for educating their children. But Burke and other critics say the program is unaccountable, hurts public schools and doesn't have proven results.

Walker's campaign released a statement in reaction to Burke's comments, saying she wants to reduce education options for families.

"I want to insure that every family has the best choice — at the public, charter, private, voucher, virtual or home school environment that is right for their children," Walker said.

Burke also praised implementation of the Common Core education standards, saying they will raise the bar of what students are expected to learn.

In 2009, Wisconsin and nearly every other state agreed to develop the standards, aimed at improving schools and students' competitiveness. Conservative Republicans, following a push from tea party activists and other critics across the country, made an attempt last legislative session to do away with them in Wisconsin, but it couldn't garner enough support to pass.

Walker called on the Legislature in July to replace the standards with something created in Wisconsin.

"I am completely supportive of Common Core state standards," Burke said Friday. "I think we have to embrace this in Wisconsin for our students to be prepared and to be competing for jobs against students from other states."


Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP

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