Research News

Mead speaking in Wausau about, ‘Public Schools and Privatization: What’s at Stake?’

February 26, 2015

UW-Madison’s Julie Mead will be delivering a presentation in Wausau on Thursday, Feb. 26, that will examine some of the controversy surrounding proposed legislation related to vouchers and school choice in Wisconsin.

The event is being sponsored by the Wisconsin institute for Public Policy and Service, and it runs from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the UW Center for Civic Engagement, 625 Stewart Ave., in Wausau.

Mead, a professor with the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, will deliver a talk titled, “Public Schools and Privatization: What’s at Stake?”

Julie Mead

An article in the Wausau Daily Herald previewing the event notes how “Mead’s expertise lies in the legal aspects of education, and she’s been researching for 20 years the issues related to special education and various forms of school choice.”

The preview goes on to note how Thursday’s event “comes a few weeks after Republican Gov. Scott Walker proposed eliminating the cap on the statewide Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, which provides parents vouchers to pay for tuition at private schools. Under the proposal, the money to pay for the vouchers would come out of state aid given to the public schools that students leave. The move needs to be approved by the state Legislature and it’s been praised by conservatives and advocacy groups such as School Choice Wisconsin, which is working to expand school options for parents. Some Republican legislators, Democrats and public school advocates have soundly criticized Walker’s proposal.”

“My goal is generally to share what I’ve learned so people can think about it,” Mead tells the Wausau Daily Herald. “I do think public education is supremely important. But I don’t think we’ve really had a conversation about (school choice and vouchers). What are we potentially giving up as we go to ever-increasing privatization? Can we support two systems?”

Mead also tells the newspaper that people need to understand that choice does have consequences.

“I think we have to take a step back and not presume that choice is, in fact, going to lead us to better systems and better results,” she said. “Whatever your views, it’s undeniable that we’re changing what was and making something new. Whether or not that’s good or bad, we need to talk about whether this is something we want to do. We should be engaged in that conversation to make sure that we are building policy that we collectively support.”

The event is free and open to the public.

• Prior to her talk in Wausau, Mead appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Route 51” program to discuss the potential impact of an expanded school voucher program on public and private education in Wisconsin.

• And on Saturday, Feb. 28, Mead will be taking part in a panel discussion about the Wisconsin state budget at the Madison Central Public Library. The event is titled, "What's ahead for our public schools." The event, which is free and open to all, runs from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.