Governor Scott Walker says his plan to expand publicly funded private voucher schools to at least nine new cities would give parents alternatives where schools are failing. But many in Madison and other communities affected by the plan were promising a fight today.
Walker told reporters his proposal would expand vouchers beyond Milwaukee and Racine to any community with enrollment of 4,000 students where at least two schools scored poorly on state exams.
"I think for us it's a realistic way to give alternatives to families where their students are headed to schools that fail to meet expectations."
That would mean vouchers would grow to at least nine communities initially, including Madison, where school board members, teachers, and others vowed to keep vouchers out of their community. The governor said the best way to do that would be to improve the schools that are failing, "[because] if they don't have any schools that fail to meet expectations, there won't be a choice program in Madison."
But that hardly appeased Madison Assembly Democrat Chris Taylor, who said the governor's budget was starving public education at the expense of vouchers.
"This is just taxpayer subsidies of religious education so that Governor Walker's biggest contributors can make a buck."
Walker's budget would also fund a special needs scholarship for voucher schools. Melissa Stoltz of Beloit has a daughter with Down Syndrome and spoke at a press conference denouncing that plan: "No longstanding statewide disability group has asked for these vouchers."
Brian Pleva with the pro-voucher group American Federation for Children concedes most parents of special needs children are happy with their local public school. "But for a small number of a families it isn't working," Pleva says. He argues this plan would trust them to make the right choice for their kids.
The full details of the governor's voucher schools plan will be unveiled in his budget Wednesday night.