by Benjamin Yount
Wisconsin’s U.S. Senator is making an issue out of what his reelection campaign is calling Mandela Barnes’ hypocrisy on school choice.
“After Lt. Gov. Barnes has reaped the benefits of private school, he has sought to prevent that choice for parents who only want what is best for their children. Barnes is a hypocrite who is only out for his own political gain,” Mike Marinella with the Johnson Campaign told The Center Square.
Barnes attended Holy Redeemer Christian Academy in elementary school and junior high before going on to graduate from Milwaukee’s John Marshall High School. Marinella noted those facts are something Barnes talks little about, and his public school teachers’ union supporters seemingly ignore.
Barnes is a strong supporter of public schools and public school teachers’ unions. In fact, he’s earned the endorsement of Wisconsin’s largest teachers’ union (WEAC) as well as the unions for Milwaukee and Madison school teachers.
“Throughout his career, Mandela has proven his commitment to educators and organized labor,” Steven Shea, COPE chair of AFT Local 212 said in his endorsement of Barnes back in June. “We know we can trust him to fight for unions in Washington because that’s what he’s done his entire career, from his days as a community organizer to the legislature and now as Lt. Governor.”
Barnes has received more than $25,000 in campaign donations from the unions over the years.
Barnes’ opposition to school choice goes back to his days in the legislature where he sponsored legislation to eliminate school choice in Wisconsin.
His proposal would have repealed Wisconsin’s statewide parental choice program, barred private schools from participating in a school choice program unless the school was already in the program in the 2015-2016 school year, and prohibited students from attending a choice program private school unless the student was already attending that school under the program in the 2015-2016 school year.
As Lt. Governor he supported Gov. Evers’ proposed budget that would have frozen enrollments for private school voucher programs and would have stopped the creation of new schools of choice.
“Mandela Barnes was able to attend the school his family thought was best for him. We celebrate that connection,” Jim Bender with School Choice Wisconsin told The Center Square. “Unfortunately, he opposes similar opportunities for those less fortunate. He only supports education delivery systems that send money indirectly to teachers unions. The national head of the teachers’ union, along with our own Superintendent of Public Instruction, sent their own children to private schools, but join Mandela in the fight to keep school choice under wraps. School choice for me, but not for thee.”
– – –