The push against school choice in Wisconsin comes after a report last week that showed choice schools in the state saw better test scores with fewer state dollars than traditional public schools.
Democrats at the Wisconsin Capitol may be trying to roll back school choice in the state after presenting a package of legislation they say would reinvest in public schools and bring transparency to voucher school spending.
“This is about public dollars, public schools, and public oversight,” Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, told reporters.
The Democrats’ transparency plan would require the state to tell taxpayers how much money goes to voucher students each year.
“If this bill passes, each property tax bill would have a line that says something like: The gross reduction in state aid to your school district in the current year is a result of people enrolled in one of the choice programs. Or as a result of payments to a private school under the special needs scholarship program,” Rep. Deb Andraca, D-Whitefish Bay, said.
Andraca says the plan is not anti-school choice, but rather about transparency.
Larson, who has long been an opponent of school choice, said Wisconsin must choose between public schools or choice schools.
“Wisconsin cannot afford to fund two competing school systems,” Larson added. “We need urgent action to stop the unchecked expansion of the voucher programs and independent charter schools.”
Republicans at the Capitol secured a major expansion of school choice funding in the new state budget.
The plan, signed by Gov. Tony Evers, will eventually increase voucher payments from $8,399 to $9,874 per student for younger students and from $9,045 to $12,368 for high school students.
The new state budget includes $1 billion more for traditional public schools.
Yet, Rep Francesca Hong, D-Madison, said Wisconsin’s public schools need more.
“Our budget cycle this past year, unfortunately, did not do enough,” Hong said. “Our children deserve more.”
Wisconsin’s public schools received more than $6 billion in state funding in 2021 and are on pace to receive billions more this year while enrollment is falling.
Public schools in the state are also in line for 400 years of per-pupil funding increase, after Gov. Evers used his veto to extend a two-year per-pupil increase for four centuries.
The push against school choice in Wisconsin also comes after a report last week that showed choice schools in the state saw better test scores with fewer state dollars than traditional public schools.