Privatizing eduction has been a cornerstone of the Republican platform for decades. Privatization of virtually everything has been a cornerstone of the Koch brothers and ALEC led Wisconsin Republican leadership since their election in 2010. So, it was no surprise when this conversation between four GOP state Legislators was overheard the night before the State of the State address.
Representative Robin Vos (ALEC State Chair), Senator Michael Ellis (Senate President), Senator Sheila Harsdorf, and Senator Glenn Grothman all sat down for drinks at the Best Western Inn on the Park. This is a very common place for them to drink, something well known amongst locals.
In the video Robin Vos brags about how he can find “$200 million in venture capital” for voucher schools. The video also revealed that all of these Republicans think the Fitzgerald brothers (leaders of both houses) were inept. On this I actually agree. But in the video, Ellis starts talking about Green Bay schools and calls Preble High School a “sewer” and makes remarks about its poverty. The only problem is that Preble is far from a poor school and they struck back.
Parents and faculty held a meeting and one by one they all spoke to how great Preble High School is. Mike Ellis was forced to apologize. What he said was wrong. People had their feelings hurt and he has acknowledged that. Whether or not Preble forgives him is up to them. But Ellis at least responded. Vos, Grothman, and Harsdorf had “no comment” when asked about the conversations in the video. But why would they need to comment, one may ask. Well here are some quotes from the video and article from Politiscoop. These should raise questions with everyone.
Ellis: “I know what you are doing and you’re going to live with me long time after he is gone”
Vos: “I know!”
Ellis: “I’m impressed with you and I respect you and I need you …. your orders, my orders, Scott Walkers orders where effed up so we voted for a bill that we didn’t like, or I didn’t like”
Vos: “I know you didn’t”
The conversation continues as Ellis instructs Vos to use the Democrats if he has to. And then this.
Ellis: “Let me say this, I’ll be very disappointed if you and I walk out of the building and what you and I shook hands on, isn’t there.”
Harsdorf: “It will be there, they will be run over” or something similar.
Ellis: “Let me say this, I am a fan of the Milwaukee Parent Choice program, I am a fan of individuals who can’t stand poverty to get the hell out of the public school system.”
And then he went on to talk about the high schools in Green Bay. These kinds of conversations, however, leave many questions to be asked. They also reveal the class warfare that is being waged in this state. Let’s start with the first bundle of quotes. Ellis is telling Vos that he is proud of him and respects him with a pat on the back. This shows that, although Vos is ALEC State Chair, Ellis is a lot higher in the hierarchy than was previously thought. Before 2011, Ellis was viewed as somewhat of a moderate or independent but it almost seems as though he’s running things. It is true his “Ellis to Madison” committee makes donations, sometimes as large as thousands of dollars to GOP faithful. But then he talks about orders. And it is clear in this sentence that someone is pulling the strings as we all thought. But who is giving orders to Vos, Ellis, and Scott Walker himself? ALEC? David Koch? Someone else? Time will likely one day tell, but I would think this sentence alone would warrant an investigation. Then Ellis goes on to say if they break the deal he will be upset. What was he promised? In exchange for what? What did Ellis and Harsdorf shake hands on?
Time will only tell. But when he says that people who don’t like poverty should get out of public schools it creates a vivid and unfortunately accurate image of what privatizing education will do. It will allow anyone with any sort of money, even if not a whole lot, to go to private schools that would deny poor people and probably people with disabilities. The public schools will get everyone left over. It really does take a village to raise a child. This type of approach will ruin our entire educational system. We cannot allow charter schools to take over our state. And we must demand Mike Ellis withdraw from voting on anything charter school related as there is evidence he may have taken a bribe in exchange for a vote on that bill. There are many questions to be answered. But for now we will continue our fight. One day longer. One day stronger.
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