Analysis says voucher expansion could divert $800 million

MADISON — A new analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau says a Republican-approved expansion of the private-school voucher program could divert up to $800 million from public schools over the next decade.

The estimate was prepared at the request of Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca who released it publicly on Thursday.

The Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee last week voted to lift a 1,000-student enrollment cap on the statewide voucher program. Initially, vouchers would be available to only 1 percent of the district's total enrollment, and after 10 years there would be no cap.

Barca calls the $800 million estimate "eye popping" and says it could spell the beginning of the end of public education.

Jim Bender, president of pro-voucher group School Choice Wisconsin, discounts the estimate as "just a guess."