School voucher program could expand statewide - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

School voucher program could expand statewide

(WAOW) -

Major changes could be coming in Wisconsin with the new state budget. Early Wednesday morning the Joint Finance Committee passed the state budget in a partisan 12-4 vote. The budget includes a $650 million income tax cut, rejecting of federal medicaid expansion and expand the school voucher program statewide.

"It gives parents a choice," said republican State Senator Jerry Petrowski said.

The voucher program allows public school students to attend private schools using taxpayer dollars, but enrollment would be capped for those living outside Milwaukee and Racine. Under the program, 500 students could attend voucher schools the first year and 1,000 every year after that.

"Really the proposal is just 500 students over 435 districts in Wisconsin. This is only going to be one student per district if you look at the numbers. So, I don' think it's going to have a whole lot of effect," said Petrowski.

Still, this vote came with heavy criticism.

"It's the beginning of the disassembling of the public school system," said democratic State Representative Mandy Wright.

The amount of the voucher would increase to $7,210 for students kindergarten through eighth grade. For those students in high school, it would cover 78,856.

"It's a huge misuse of taxpayer dollars, because after all the whole voucher system is unproven. We've seen it in Milwaukee for thirty years and we have seen no increase in student achievement, in fact it's flat or declined," said Wright.

This proposal is different than Governor Scott Walker's original pitch. His plan included expanding vouchers to just nine cities, not the entire state.

Republican Senate and Assembly leaders said they don't anticipate making any changes to the plan as it makes it way to the assembly and if passed, Governor Walker's desk.

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