November 26, 2003 TO THE HONORABLE MEMBERS OF THE ASSEMBLY: I am vetoing Assembly Bill 126 in its entirety. This bill directs the Legislative Audit Bureau to conduct a longitudinal study of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.
While I share the desire to evaluate the Choice program in a meaningful way, I am vetoing this bill because it fails to require all Choice schools and students to participate in the study. Without such a requirement, the Legislative Audit Bureau will be unable to create truly representative samples of students participating in the program. A sample bias will be created as successful Choice schools continue to participate in the study, while unsuccessful and failing Choice schools withdraw from participation. Such a flaw is contrary to basic research methods, will likely skew results, and will hinder the usefulness of the study.
Further, the sample bias created under this bill may, in fact, create a false sense of accountability for Choice schools. While there are many exemplary schools with demonstrable results participating in the Choice program, there are other schools that are truly unaccountable to the parents and taxpayers who support them. To achieve true academic accountability, all Choice schools and students would need to participate throughout the length of the study.
Finally, I am concerned that long-term funding of Legislative Audit Bureau positions from private sources, particularly if those funds are provided by organizations that formally support or oppose the Choice program, creates a conflict of interest. Not only will this potentially compromise the study's objectivity, it could negatively impact the deeply held respect that the Bureau has earned over many years.
In conclusion, while I support the Legislature's efforts to work toward a meaningful evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, this bill falls short of that goal. I encourage the Legislature to continue to work toward true accountability on behalf of the children and parents who utilize the voucher program, and the taxpayers who subsidize it. Respectfully submitted, JIM DOYLE Governor