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GOP Lawmakers Want To Expand Voucher Eligibility, But Disagree On How Much

Senate Budget Proposal Nixes Sparsity Aid, Expands State Aid Over All


Wisconsin lawmakers seem to agree on a sizeable increase in public school aid for the next two-year state budget. But they don’t agree on family income limits for the voucher programs that let low- to middle-income students go to private schools at taxpayer expense.

Right now, only families at less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level qualify for private school choice programs.

State Senate Republicans want to raise that to 220 percent, while Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, favors 300 percent of the poverty level. That’s equivalent to a family income of $74,000 a year.

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Under the Senate GOP plan, virtually all of the current $20 million in “sparsity aid” that covers the higher costs of rural school districts would be removed.

But the Senate package also includes $740 million more in general state aid to Wisconsin schools. That’s less than what Gov. Scott Walker wanted but more than what state Superintendent Tony Evers sought.