A proposal to expand a program that allows low-income children in Milwaukee to attend private schools using a voucher system is drawing fire at the Capitol. The bill would lift the current cap of 22,500 students who can use the program. It would also allow schools outside of the city, but still in Milwaukee County, to begin accepting students using the vouchers.
The Assembly Education Committee held a hearing on the bill Tuesday, drawing testimony from dozens of people on both sides of the issue.
State Representative Mark Honadel (R-South Milwaukee), the chief sponsor of the measure, says there’s no rationale to continue limiting enrollment in the voucher program. He says removing the cap would only encourage more schools to make long term investments, giving parents more options.
The voucher program reimburses private schools for taking in low-income students, which critics say diverts needed resources from public schools in Milwaukee.
Democratic State Representative Sondy Pope-Robert (D-Middleton) says there’s no evidence voucher schools have done anything to improve student performance. She sees the proposal as just another attempt to further privatize education in the state.
Chris Thiel with Milwaukee Public Schools testified that the bill would essentially result in residents subsidizing private schools in the suburbs. He says it would also drain the resources of public schools by skewing how much state aid the district will qualify for.
A similar proposal is included in the Governor’s state budget.