Late State Lawmaker Was Early Supporter Of School Vouchers, But Later Opposed Its Expansion

Polly Williams, Dead At 77, Is Being Heralded As Leader Of School Choice Movement


School voucher advocates are lamenting the death of former Milwaukee state Rep. Annette “Polly” Williams, and are calling her a leader of the school choice movement even though the Democrat disagreed with some voucher expansions.

Williams, who died on Sunday at age 77, was part of a coalition with Gov. Tommy Thompson and others when taxpayer-funded vouchers started in Milwaukee in the 1990s. The group said the public money was needed to help provide a better quality education for low-income minority children in the city.

Later politicians like Gov. Scott Walker pushed through voucher expansions that included more middle-income families, some suburban Milwaukee schools and other districts around the state. Williams opposed that development.

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“That we would take a program that was designed for low-income families,” said Williams in May of 2011. “And to now just literally … They’re still in this program. They’re just taking this program from the family who needs it the most, and giving it to the greedy.”

School voucher advocates are already pushing Walker for an additional expansion next year, and he’s expected to go along with some sort of change.