Legislative committee considers school choice expansion planSchool choice advocates told a panel of state lawmakers Tuesday that a plan to expand Milwaukee's private school voucher system would increase competition and benefit students.
By: Shawn Johnson, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
School choice advocates told a panel of state lawmakers Tuesday that a plan to expand Milwaukee's private school voucher system would increase competition and benefit students. But critics warned it would take a bad situation and make it worse.
The choice program uses public funds to send low-income kids to private schools. Right now it's restricted to the City of Milwaukee and caps enrollment at around 22,000 students. This plan would expand the system countywide and lift that cap.
Richard Laabs is with the Lutheran Urban Mission Initiative, which oversees several private religious schools that are part of the choice program. He says if the program goes countywide more than 50 schools could be eligible, including seven from his organization.
Laabs says his organization supports the expansion in the name of competition.
“We welcome that competition within our own organization. And we think that competition helps drive and improve school performance within all the different sectors--the public schools, the charter schools, the voucher schools, and the virtual schools."
But voucher critics warn this plan would only further cut funding for Milwaukee's public schools even though they teach more kids with special needs or discipline problems. Teacher Bob Peterson says that's neither right nor fair since they have to be more transparent and accountable than their voucher school counterparts.
“We need to support our long tradition of public schools in Wisconsin,” says Peterson. “We need to dismantle this pending dual school system and ensure that all schools that receive public funds have accountability, transparency and serve all children."
Gov. Scott Walker's budget includes a similar provision, but would take it a step further by removing any income limits for the program.