Democratic Rep. Steve Doyle defended his stance on not expanding the state voucher program against then-Republican challenger Julian Bradley in a debate hosted by West Salem High School on Oct. 20. According to Doyle, the voucher program already exists in districts where public schools are failing and shouldn’t expand to other regions where they’re not.
“But we don’t have failing schools in western Wisconsin; we have good, quality schools,” Doyle said.
When checking the claim (Doyle later clarified he meant schools only in the 94th District), The Observatory found that most of the schools met or exceeded state expectations according to report cards produced by the Department of Public Instruction. However, in two out of the four years for which report cards were available, the La Crosse school district had schools that failed to meet expectations.
DelRoy DeBerg, superintendent of Melrose-Mindoro School District, holds a similar stance as Doyle as it pertains to expanding the voucher program.
“When you’re looking at funding two different types of programs for education and with money tight already and no new money coming in, I think that would be a concern is how are we going to be able to fund two different school education systems,” said DeBerg.
Melrose-Mindoro, which in its 2015-16 report card was graded as “exceeding expectations,” has already had to make due with a lack of funding. The district just passed a $24.7 million referendum for a district-wide building improvement plan on Nov. 8 and DeBerg says the lack of funding makes it a struggle.
“We’re fortunate to have good parents who value their education,” he said.
Yet even with fiscal constraints, DeBerg says students in the Melrose-Mindoro school district continue to receive a quality education because of the school’s commitment to the community.
“That small, rural community is obvious in our schools,” say DeBerg. “Our kids get to know their staff, we build a relationship, we do not let kids fall through the cracks.”
Phone interview with DelRoy DeBerg, 11/28/16