UPDATE: Gov. Walker wants to expand voucher program to Madison - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Gov. Walker wants to expand school voucher program to Madison

MADISON (WKOW) -- School vouchers may be coming to Madison.

That's what Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) is proposing for a total of nine school districts across the state.

Vouchers are taxpayer-funded subsidies that allow parents of students in underachieving public schools to send them to private schools of their choosing.

Right now, they are only allowed in Milwaukee and Racine.

But a part of the Governor's budget proposal includes a $73 million expansion of the program to any district with at least 4,000 students and at least two schools failing to meet expectations based on state report cards.

"Our goal is anywhere else in the state we think its reasonable to start looking at that as a viable alternative if schools are failing to meet expectations," said Gov. Walker.

"I find it appalling and devastating to our community," said Arlene Silveira, a member of the Madison Board of Education.

That's the reaction of many school board members, district administrators and even the city's mayor.  They say vouchers, by their very nature, take money away from public schools in poor neighborhoods, guaranteeing their failure.

"As the state cuts back on its commitment to funding, that is devastating public schools throughout the state," said Madison Mayor Paul Soglin.

One school board member went so far as to suggest the plan purposely targets Madison.

"The Governor doesn't like us," said MMSD Board Vice-President Marj Passman.  "Its pretty clear he doesn't like us.  Madison was on his agenda."

Gov. Walker says he didn't pick Madison, the school report cards did.

"The best thing for them, would be to make sure there are no schools that fail to meet expectations.  Because if they don't have any schools that fail to meet expectations, there won't be a choice program in Madison," said Gov. Walker.

But key Senate Republicans like Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) and Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) also have problems with the plan, especially because it would potentially allow students at even high performing schools in the designated districts to use vouchers.  Sen. Ellis wants them only available for kids who go to failing schools.

"And that's something we'd be willing to work with the Senator on, that's really our goal," said Gov. Walker.

At least at the outset, it likely would only be children at underachieving schools who could take advantage of the change.  That's because the Governor's plan caps the expansion at 500 students statewide in fiscal year 2014 and at 1,000 students in 2015.

But Madison school board members Arlene Silveira says she believes Republicans will eventually seek to lift those caps and expand the voucher program statewide.


MADISON (WKOW) -- Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) is proposing Wisconsin's voucher school program expand to nine more districts including Madison and Beloit.

The expansion would only be allowed in districts that have at least two school buildings receiving a D or F grade on state report cards and have at least 4,000 students.

School vouchers are taxpayer-funded subsidies which allow students to pay for the cost of private school tuition.  Currently only the Milwaukee and Racine school districts provide vouchers.

Walker says the plan will be included in his budget delivered to the Legislature on Wednesday.

"Every child, regardless of their zip code, deserves access to a great education," said Governor Walker in a statement released Monday morning. "While it is our goal to help struggling schools succeed, we need to make sure students and parents can choose the best option and make sure each child receives a truly great education."

The plan is certain to unleash a tough fight as even some Republican Senators have already voiced opposition to the plan.

The other districts that would immediately qualify under Walker's plan are Green Bay, Fond du Lac, Kenosha, Sheboygan, Superior, Waukesha, and West Allis-West Milwaukee.

Capitol Bureau Chief Greg Neumann will have more on this story on 27 News at 5 and 6.

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