Budget Committee Approves Statewide School Vouchers, Tax Cuts

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he wants a school accountability bill with sanctions for failing schools.

The legislature’s budget committee approved plans early this morning to expand vouchers statewide and increase public funding for schools.

It also increased a tax cut for Wisconsinites by more than what Gov. Scott Walker had initially proposed.

The money for public schools differs from what the Governor proposed in a couple key ways. It would boost funding by $150 per student – Walker’s budget would have held school funding per pupil flat. GOP lawmakers would also completely delete Walker’s plan to spend $64 million on performance incentive grants for public schools.

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Voucher schools and parents with kids in private schools would also benefit in a couple ways, as detailed to reporters by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

“We are able to give an increase to those kids who are in schools today who are getting a good education outside the public schools. But we also are able to do something different as well for kids who are already in traditional private schools: we are going to make tuition paid at any private school tax deductible.”

Voucher schools would be expanded statewide, though enrollment would be capped at 1,000 students. New voucher schools would be restricted to poorer families. Voucher schools would eventually be completely state funded, including those already in Milwaukee. Senate Democrat Jennifer Shilling said it was a lot of new policy to be debating in the middle of the night.

“We have suddenly – overnight! – we have super-sized voucher schools in this state. It’s vouchers on steroids.”

Republicans on the budget committee also voted to increase the size of Walker’s proposed tax cut to about $650 million from the $347 million Walker originally called for. All incomes would see a tax cut, including the wealthiest Wisconsinites. GOP leaders say they expect the changes approved this morning will also be given a final approval by the legislature.