Milwaukee-area lawmakers heaped heavy criticism on a bill expanding the city’s Parental Choice program, during debate on the bill Tuesday night. The legislation removes the enrollment cap for vouchers and expands the program to private schools in all of Milwaukee County.
Milwaukee Democrat Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee) accused lawmakers from both parties of playing with the lives of kids, angrily telling them to “knock it off.” Fields questioned why lawmakers have a problem with kids in MPS, before saying “you’re all full of (expletive)” and throwing his microphone.
The outburst prompted lawmakers to take a break for several minutes to let tempers cool, but did not stop many other Democrats from raising questions about expanding the controversial program.
State Representative Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) says the bill is just another effort to remove funding from public schools in the city. She called it the “first step in completely decimating and eliminating public education.”
Funding from public schools is diverted to private schools through the voucher program. Democrats contend that will cost taxpayers more money to fund schools that have not proven they are effective in actually educating children better than MPS.
However, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) argued that lifting the cap allows parents to pursue a quality education for their children, instead of keeping them in failing public schools. Fitzgerald says “MPS is broken” and the change would not be needed if those schools were actually flourishing.
The Assembly approved the legislation on a 57-36 vote. Lawmakers on Tuesday night also passed a bill making numerous changes to how voucher schools are reimbursed for students. Democrats contend the measure lacks safeguards to help prevent fraud.
Both bills now head to the state Senate.