November 25, 2014

Walker signals willingness to modify voucher expansion

School district officials from around northeast Wisconsin are speaking out about how Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget would impact education. Appleton superintendent Lee Allinger said that while Appleton wouldn’t fall under the proposed expansion of the school voucher program, the governor is moving away from the initial goal of helping low-income students.

“The intent is not being met, when eligible students already attending a private choice school, have first access to a voucher,” said Allinger. “The intent is not being met when the eligibility requirement for student participation has grown to 300 percent of poverty. The proposed expansion language is not logical, when vouchers are extended to students already attending a high performing school.”

Allinger said students already in private schools would get the first crack at vouchers, and families with an income of up to $70,000 a year would be eligible. He said that flies in the face of the original intent of the program created in Milwaukee, where the goal was to give low-income students an option. He said students could also leave high-achieving public schools.

Allinger spoke at an elementary school in Green Bay, along with state superintendent of schools Tony Evers, Green Bay superintendent Michelle Langenfeld, and Seymour superintendent Peter Ross.

Governor Scott Walker said Thursday that he may consider scaling back a controversial proposed to expand school choice. Some Republicans in the state Senate have voiced reservations over the proposal in Walker’s budget plan. It would allow parents in up to nine additional Wisconsin school districts to get tax-funded vouchers to send their kids to private schools.

Walker told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board he may consider narrowing down the choice option, to only those students in schools which don’t meet state performance standards. That way, better-performing schools would not risk losing students and state aid to private schools in their districts. Walker said he’s most concerned about giving parents in poor-performing schools an option to improve their children’s education.

Walker has also indicated he is willing to add voucher schools to a report card system aimed at rating the performance of public schools. The Governor says he would consider a bill that would apply the report cards to private schools that are receiving taxpayer money.

WHBY’s Mike Kemmeter contributed to this report