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Election Day brings another big win for Wisconsin’s school choice movement

By   /   November 14, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

MILWAUKEE  – President-elect Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson were not the only big winners on Election Day in Wisconsin.

School choice and the state legislative candidates who support it won big, too. 

“After twenty-six years of choice in Wisconsin, it appears time to finally put the debate to rest,” said Justin Moralez, state director for the American Federation for Children, in a statement after the election. “The voters clearly believe school choice is working,”

Photo provided by State Rep Jessie Rodriguez

STATE REP. JESSIE RODRIGUEZ: “I think there is more support in my area for it because I think people have more of an understanding of what school choice is.”

State Rep. Jessie Rodriguez, whose district is in the southern part of Milwaukee County, in many respects the cradle of the parental choice movement, said familiarity with school choice helps.

“I think there is more support in my area for it because I think people have more of an understanding of what school choice is,” Rodriguez told Wisconsin Watchdog, “where in other areas of the state, I think, there’s still a lot of misconceptions all due to a lot of groups that really don’t like the program.”

Rodriguez, a Republican, said that she saw signs of a bipartisan victory for school choice. She said she was happy to see Democrat and school choice supporter Jason Fields win his old 11th Assembly District seat back.

“I saw the victory of Sen. (Lena) Taylor (D-Milwaukee) too,” Rodriguez said. “I know that they (Taylor’s opponents) were going after her for her support in the past for the program. I think it’s just a clear message that people are willing and more open to another option whenever there is no other option.”

Fields returns after defeating school choice opponent Darrol Gibson 58.7 percent to 41.3 percent in the Aug. 9 Democratic Primary election. Taylor defeated school choice opponent state Rep. Mandela Barnes 60.6 percent to 39.4 percent in the August primary. Barnes, backed by the teachers unions and school choice opponent state Sen. Chris Larson, defeated Fields in the Democratic primary in 2012. Both Taylor and Fields ran unopposed in the general election.

The American Federation for Children said in its release union-funded special interests and Democratic candidates were unsuccessful in using school choice to take seats from school choice supporters.

“The Greater Wisconsin Committee spent over $179,000 running attack ads against Rep. Todd Novak for his support of school choice,” the release said. “Former Representative Mandy Wright, Jack Redmond, Jeff Wright, David Gorski, and Alicia Leinberger made villainizing school choice a central theme of their campaign.”

In the 51st Assembly District, Novak, a Republican defeated Democrat Jeff Wright Tuesday, 51.3 percent to 48.7. Redmond, a Democrat,  lost to Rodriguez 59.4 percent to 40.6 percent in the 21st Assembly District. Former WSAU Radio host Patrick Snyder, a Republican, defeated Democrat Mandy Wright with 53.4 percent of the vote in the 85th Assembly district. In the 72nd Assembly District, State Rep. Scott Krug, R-Nekoosa, defeated Gorski, a Democrat,56.5 percent to 43.5 percent. And Leinberger, a Democrat,  lost to State Rep. Lee Nerison , an incumbent Republican, 61.1 percent to 38.9 percent in the 96th Assembly district.

SEE RELATED: Democratic polling memo shows popularity of school choice

Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin said opponents of school choice are consistent.

“They knowingly repeat the same misinformation campaign over and over. Then, every election cycle, voters keep sending school choice supporters to Madison.”


James Wigderson is a Wisconsin-based reporter for Watchdog. He is also an online contributor to MacIver Institute and RightWisconsin, blogs at the Wigderson Library and Pub, and was formerly an award-winning local columnist for the Waukesha Freeman. James is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors. He lives in Waukesha, WI, with his wife Doreen and their children.