GREEN BAY, Wis. - (WFRV) The school choice voucher program began in Milwaukee back in 1990. Last legislative session it expanded to Racine. Now Gov. Walker wants to take it to nine more school districts across the state. The governor says the voucher program is one of his top priorities. However, based on initial reaction - getting it approved could take some work.
"We should be focused on making sure all kids have access to a great education," said Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
The governor's proposal would affect school districts with at least 4,000 students and at least two school buildings receiving a D or F grade from the Department of Public Instruction. Eligible parents would receive a voucher of roughly $6,400 for their children to attend a private school. While in Appleton Monday evening, Gov. Walker said every child, regardless of zip code, deserves access to a great education.
"I think those schools and those districts where schools are failing," Walker said, "we should give families viable alternatives and that is what we are doing here."
But the proposal may have a tough fight in the legislature. "This is not a good idea," said Republican Senate President, Mike Ellis. Ellis says it is wrong to penalize an entire district, because of issues at just two of its schools. He says most school districts in the state are not failing, so there is no need to expand beyond Milwaukee and Racine.
"Blowing this thing statewide when there is no need to do so and opening the door is going to be devastating on our public school system," Ellis said.
Democrat Dave Hansen says he is upset the governor is including the voucher program within his next budget and not as separate legislation. The senator from Green Bay says a proposal like this deserves input from the school district and public.
"Something this big to the Green Bay area deserves input and it's criminal and it should not happen," Hansen said.
The governor's proposal would be open to 500 students statewide next school year. Two other Republican senators, Luther Olsen and Rob Cowles, expressed concern about the proposal along with Ellis. Both Ellis and Cowles support a binding referendum in each identified school district. Gov. Walker is against that idea.