“Reprehensible.” “Race baiting.” “Fear mongering.” Just some of the words used by African-American leaders in Milwaukee this week to describe recent political ads run by the school voucher lobby against Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle.
The ads, intended to pressure Doyle into raising the enrollment cap on Milwaukee’s voucher program, compared him to George Wallace and Orval Faubus, two governors who tried to block school desegregation in the 1960s. Doyle has indicated he will support raising the enrollment cap but wants additional accountability measures for the private schools and increased investment in the public schools as well.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the pro-voucher commercials were paid for by a Wisconsin group named the “Coalition for America’s Families.” Nice enough name. The ads were created by a Milwaukee radio talk show host and the editor of a local newspaper. Paging the Poynter Institute. Maybe this list needs a bit wider distribution? The ad’s creators also apparently enlisted the help of high school students in the voucher program, the Journal Sentinel reports. We hope character assassination has not become part of civics class.
Check out MJS columnist Eugene Kane’s take on the story here.
“The news conference was intended to demonstrate that many black voters aren’t stupid enough to fall for an ad that exaggerates the school choice debate in such an unrealistic – and insulting – manner.
The Southern governors who stood in the door against black students were willing to do anything – no matter how extreme – to drive home their point of view.
Apparently, the school choice debate brings out that same kind of ugliness in some people.”
Yes it does. And has before. Just a few years ago, as Congress debated creating a federal voucher program for Washington, D.C., the voucher lobby ran similar smear ads comparing anti-voucher politicians to segregationist governors. And don’t forget this failed effort in South Carolina last year.
Perhaps after this week’s reaction by Milwaukeeans that page will now be stripped from the voucher movement playbook.