Five of the 10 Democratic candidates for Governor stopped by Minocqua Saturday to participate in a candidate forum in the lead up to an August primary and a race to face Governor Scott Walker.
State schools superintendent Tony Evers, independent Mike McCabe, long-time Democratic leader Matt Flynn, State Senator Kathleen Vinehout and State Representative Dana Wachs were there.
The forum touched on several topics, including education.
All the candidates said the school funding formula needed work to help rural schools, and Governor Scott Walker's policies have hurt education. But one topic brought out strong emotions: the funding of private schools with taxpayer money called vouchers. Each one said the state cannot afford a dual-funded education system.
Evers said as the state's top education official he wants to put the amount of tax money paid to private schools on the tax bill and eventually phase it out...
"...People across the state don't understand the voucher program or the voucher problem. That's one way to getting the conversation started...."
Flynn said vouchers originally were set up for Milwaukee schools and he says haven't worked...
"....All of the schools have to be held to certain standards. Right now that's not the case. Kids are not getting a better education going to them...."
Kathleen Vinehout says private schools are fine, but the state shouldn't pay for it...
"...Our school funding formula is broken. It needs to be changed. We can start building that base by making transparent what local people are actually paying...."
Dana Wachs of Eau Claire authored a bill to make the voucher payments public..
"....Eau Claire is not a massively large school district. Just there, between $2 million and $3 million of Eau Claire school money is going to unaccountable voucher schools. This is ridiculous..."
Independent Mike McCabe says the program drains money from rural districts...
"...The vast majority of voucher recipients were already privately schooling children before they created vouchers. It hasn't created choice they already had. It just put taxpayers on the hook for paying for that decision..."
Democrats will pick one candidate in August to challenge Gov. Walker in the fall.