Candidates passionately oppose school vouchers for SuperiorRegardless which candidates win seats on the Superior School Board in the April 2 election, the expansion of the Parental Choice school voucher program will not receive a nod of support.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
Regardless which candidates win seats on the Superior School Board in the April 2 election, the expansion of the Parental Choice school voucher program will not receive a nod of support.
Candidates Patrick Dorin, James Farkas, Christina Kintop and Michael Raunio all spoke out against the program during a candidate forum Monday hosted by the Superior Area Council PTA.
Moderator Ellen Chicka, president of the Superior Area Council PTA, asked the candidates a series of questions over the course of an hour, but the topic that drew the most passionate response was the proposed expansion of school vouchers to Superior.
Dorin, who is an incumbent, spoke first and roundly condemned the philosophy behind the program.
“I am not in favor of the voucher program because all it does is set schools up for a competitive mode,” Dorin said. “It’s the industrial model in a sense; they’re just competing against each other.”
Dorin said he favors a model of instruction that promotes small, neighborhood schools. With smaller class sizes, teachers can work closely with students and create a sense of community conducive to learning.
Farkas spoke of his childhood growing up in the Detroit area. He knew many families that sent their children to Catholic schools, and when he moved to western Michigan, he saw the same trend.
In both cases, Farkas said, parents paid property taxes that supported public schools but chose to send their children to private schools.
“I believe choice is good; however, I believe that public taxpayer funds should not be used for private schools,” Farkas said. “If you make a commitment to send your children to a Christian school, to a Catholic school, to an Islamic school, you may do so; but I don’t believe that taxpayer funds should be utilized for that.”
If the budget does pass with some form of the voucher expansion still in place, Farkas hopes it will include accountability measures that level the playing field for public schools.
“Currently vouchers schools don’t have a means test, or they don’t have the same assessment criteria that our public schools do,” Farkas said. He also pointed out that private schools are not required to accept special needs students and that private schools don’t adhere to the same basic requirements public schools do.
Kintop, who currently serves as chair of the legislative committee on the School Board, said she agreed completely with Farkas.
“The voucher program would be catastrophic for Superior,” she said. “We need to look at what’s best for the most children, not what’s best for a few.
“In the state of Wisconsin there are 30,000 students that would benefit from the voucher program in the private sector, whereas there are 870,000 in the public school system. So to take money from the public and give it to the private is not a good use of taxpayer dollars.”
Kintop added that she believed the voucher program violated the separation of church and state.
Raunio chuckled when asked about the Parental Choice Program and said he was “definitely not” in favor.
“Everything that I’ve read over this being tried in this state and other places, it has failed,” Raunio said. “It has not worked out to what they say it’s going to do. Basically it just hurts the public school system.”
Raunio said the program would drain money from the Superior school district and give it to private schools. The district has already absorbed deep funding cuts, he said, and would struggle with the additional loss of revenue.
“It just does not work for our community to have a voucher program,” Raunio said. “I understand that the governor wants to put it here because we meet that criteria of ‘failing schools,’ but here in Superior, Wis., the voucher program will not help our schools.”
Two school board seats available in the April 2 spring election. School Board members are elected to a three-year term beginning on April 22.