April 24, 2014

Evers says voucher plan premature

The state superintendent of schools says Governor Walker’s proposal to expand a voucher program needs to be reined in.

The governor’s budget includes a provision that would expand vouchers for private schools to districts with more than 4,000 students and that have at least two failing schools. State Superintendent Tony Evers says the issue is too divisive to be triggered automatically. He’s hopeful lawmakers will allow those discussions to happen locally, so school districts are not compelled to implement a voucher program

Several Republican lawmakers have already expressed similar concerns about the plan, with Senate President Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) indicating he wants communities to hold a public referendum on the issue before they would be forced to create a voucher program.

The plan bases its rating of failing schools on report cards the state issued for the first time last year. Evers says major decisions about local education should not be made using a system that’s just getting started. He says it’s premature to “morph into high stakes decision making” using those report cards.

Evers is also concerned about the school funding included in the governor’s budget, which raises aid by about one percent but directs the money toward property tax relief instead of classroom funding. He says districts are already having trouble keeping up with the cuts made in the last state budget, and the current funding proposal could force them to make even deeper cuts. Evers warns that could mean reductions in technical programs, layoffs, and the loss of other services.

Evers wants lawmakers to increase public school funding by about $225 per student.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:18)

WHBY’s Rick Schuh contributed to this report.