Legislators fail to reach deal on school vouchers, delay vote

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Joint Finance Committee was scheduled to vote on the expansion of school vouchers Wednesday, May 29th, however, legislators were unable to reach a deal and the vote has been delayed.

Gov. Scott Walker has proposed a plan to expand the state of Wisconsin’s voucher program, saying it’s a way to get kids out of failing schools. However, Gov. Walker is meeting opposition from Democrats, and even some Republicans.

Under Gov. Walker’s plan for expansion, vouchers would be allowed in districts where at least two schools with 4,000 or more students have received a D or an F on a state report card.

State Senate President Mike Ellis called the plan flawed, and Senator Luther Olson, the chairman of the state’s Education Committee didn’t give it a ringing endorsement, saying “we’ll see.”

Republicans hold an 18-15 majority in the Senate, so two GOP defections would likely kill the plan.

That is precisely what public school advocates want.

“Because people don’t like our Parks System, we’re not giving out vouchers for people to sign up for Country Clubs, so why are we doing that with our schools?  It just doesn’t make sense,” State Sen. Chris Larson (D – Milwaukee) said.

The minority leader of the Wisconsin Senate, Larson is opposed to the expansion because the state doesn’t hold private schools to the same standards of transparency and accountability as it does with public schools.

School choice already exists in Milwaukee and Racine, but Gov. Walker would expand it to nine other school districts where there are failing schools, including Kenosha, Waukesha, West Allis, West Milwaukee and Sheboygan.

Gov. Walker would also increase the amount of money given to each student to offset the cost of a private education. Right now, vouchers are about $6,500.

Gov. Walker would increase that to $7,050 for kids up to eighth-grade and more than $7,800 for students in high school.

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