Governor Scott Walker announced his plans today that would expand the state's voucher program beyond Milwaukee and Racine.
Walker is proposing bringing vouchers to nine new communities, based on the school districts' performance on new state report cards. Districts that have two or more failing schools and have at least 4,000 students would qualify. Walker is also proposing to allow special needs students to attend private schools under the program.
Matthew Kussow is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools. He applauds the Governor's plans for expansion.
"Public schools are doing a great job of educating 80 to 85 percent of the kids that are going through their system. But I don't think that means that we should ignore the kids that are not succeeding in the public schools and the governor's proposal today reflects the fact that you have some very good private schools in communities and not every parent has access to them because of their financial situation."
But many public school advocates are sounding off, saying the proposal would starve public school districts of much needed funding. Tom Beebe is Project Director of Opportunity to Learn Wisconsin.
"There are 800,000-something kids in the state of Wisconsin. So if we start stripping away resources from the pot of money intended for public schools to go to private schools under the voucher program, we are actually taking opportunities away from [the] vast majority of kids."
Governor Walker's 2014-2015 budget proposal includes a slight increase in state aid - around 1 percent - for public education, while boosting funding for private and voucher schools by nearly 9 percent. Walker wants to raise the amount taxpayers pay to private schools per student: from $6,442 per voucher presently to $7,050 per student in K-8 and $7,856 for high school students.
Walker is likely to face opposition even from his own party on his plans to expand vouchers.
The nine communities that would qualify for vouchers under Governor Walker's budget proposal are Beloit, Fond Du Lac, Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Sheboygan, Superior, Waukesha, and West Allis-West Milwaukee.