Wisconsin lawmakers approve statewide school vouchers


MADISON, Wis. – Until this week, it appeared that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was only going to be able to push through a very limited expansion of the state’s private school voucher program.

But now it appears there may have been a last-minute loophole created that could allow many more students into the program than the original plan allowed.

In any case, Wisconsin’s voucher program, which dates back to 1990 and is currently limited to Milwaukee and Racine, will apparently expand statewide.

The expansion proposal was part of the state’s biannual budget, which was approved by the Senate last night by a razor-thin 17-16 vote, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. All but one Republican senator voted for the budget while all Democrats opposed it.

The state Assembly approved the budget Wednesday, and it will now go to Walker for his signature.

Walker originally hoped to expand the voucher program to any school district in the state with at least 4,000 students and at least two failing schools. That would have automatically added nine districts to the program.

But state lawmakers, including many Republicans, opposed the plan, and forced Walker into a compromise. They agreed to allow private school vouchers anywhere in the state, but limited the number of students participating outside of Milwaukee and Racine to 500 next year and 1,000 the following year.

The compromise angered many conservatives, who thought too many students would be left without opportunities to secure better educations in private schools.

But apparently an amendment was added to the budget earlier this week that would allow any existing private schools that accept vouchers in Milwaukee or Racine to open satellite schools around the state, the news report said. Students enrolling in those schools would be considered Milwaukee or Racine students, and would not count against the 500 or 1,000-student cap.

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