July 31, 2014

Budget panel delays vote on vouchers

Governor Scott Walker’s proposal would expand the school voucher program to nine districts outside the Milwaukee area, but members of his party are not on the same page.

Walker might have to compromise on the number of districts. “Oh, I don’t know if we have a set number. We’d just like to have an expansion so that more families in this state have a choice and I think we’re well on our way to getting there.”

Republican leaders are discussing ways to give state-funded vouchers to students in under-performing public schools so they can instead choose to attend private schools.

Walker would not reveal the content of conversations he had with Senate President Mike Ellis (R-Neenah), only saying they had “good discussions.” He says, “Mike and I have been friends a long time. I thought we were gonna find a way … to work out a good compromise. I think we’re well on our way. We’ll be announcing that in the coming days ’cause there’s still some more work to be done.”

The use of report cards to determine choice expansion seems to be off the table. Walker’s fine with that, saying “we’re not wed to that.”

Joint Finance Committee member Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) says he has no clues as to what criteria would be used instead of report cards. “We don’t want the report card to be used; we don’t want that nine-district thing because that just was … it bastardized the report cards because they were not designed for that,” but he didn’t offer an alternative.

Meanwhile, Walker’s plan to create a statewide Charter School Oversight Board was taken out of the budget Wednesday. Senate finance panel co-chair Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) says the issue will be considered later as a separate bill.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:38