Vice President Mike Pence and other members of the Trump administration made a stop in Madison on Tuesday in celebration of the anniversary of the school choice voucher program. Pence says it was a transformational moment for education in the country.
“Thirty years ago, Governor Tommy Thompson made history when he created the first school choice program in America. Governor Scott Walker built on that progress when he expanded the program statewide,” Pence said.
The event in the Capitol rotunda was attended by hundreds of students who are able to attend private schools with taxpayer subsidized vouchers. It was the highlight of National School Choice Week in Wisconsin.
— School Choice WI (@SchoolChoiceWI) January 28, 2020
Pence credited Republican leadership in the 1990s, which lead to the start of school choice in Wisconsin. He said the state’s voucher program is a guideline for a nationwide roll out of similar initiatives.
“As we speak, the President and I are now working with the Secretary of Education and many of the great champions here to create a new a new program to provide more than five billion dollars in school choice programs across America.”
With the visit from Pence, Tuesday was a big day for school choice at the Capitol, but not everyone is a fan. “This the exact same administration, that’s Mike Pence’s administration, that sees children as political pawns, as ways to make money.” said Representative Jonathon Brostoff (D-Milwaukee).
Brostoff proposes legislation to eliminate the vouchers for students at private schools, mainly in Milwaukee. He also wants to reinstate the SAGE program, which set an 18/1 student teacher ratio in Wisconsin schools. Democrats claim the voucher program siphons resources away from public schools that need them.
“They claim they are the saviors of these black and brown children, saving them from these poorly performing public schools,” said Marva Herndon, who serves on the Milwaukee Board of School Directors.
Jim Bender is President of School Choice Wisconsin. “In our history as a country, there have long been Caucasians, standing in the way of educational opportunity for people of color. So this isn’t new. But it’s certainly all that this bill represents,” Bender said. “You have a white representative, trying to close those schools and shutting off opportunity for those children of color. We shouldn’t be dumb enough to fall into such a political stunt.”
The Democratic bill is unlikely to even receive a public hearing in the Republican-controlled legislature.
WRN’s Bob Hague contributed to this report