By Steve Gunn
MADISON, Wis. – The state of Wisconsin’s limited private school voucher program could be expanding statewide, under terms of a compromise that’s reportedly close to being completed between Gov. Scott Walker and state lawmakers.
The program has existed in Milwaukee since 1989, was expanded to Racine two years ago. In his recent biannual budget proposal, Walker proposed expanding vouchers to all school districts in the state with at least 4,000 students that have at least two persistently failing schools.
That plan would have affected nine districts, including Madison and Green Bay.
But Walker’s proposal quickly ran into opposition in the legislature and appeared to be doomed. But after several months of negotiations, the two sides appear to have reached an agreement, according to the Associated Press.
The voucher program would be allowed to go statewide and exist in every school district, but enrollment (outside of Milwaukee and Racine) would be capped at 500 students after one year and 1,000 after two, the news report said. No more than 1 percent of students in any district would be allowed to participate.
In return, Walker agreed to expand state aid to public schools by $150 per student in each of the next two years. The governor’s original proposal included no increase in state aid for public schools.
The compromise plan is drawing opposition from various groups. Conservatives are reportedly angry about the limit on the number of students who can participate, while public education advocates say statewide vouchers will steal resources from public schools.
Walker promised that the enrollment cap will be revisited in the future, and can be adjusted or lifted depending on necessity and public demand.
“Every two years we’re going to come back and talk about further expansion,” Walker said.