Friday, August 16, 2013
Vouchers are generally pitched to taxpayers as a way to give children at troubled public schools a chance at attending better ones. That was how Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker pitched the idea that the state expand its voucher program beyond Milwaukee and Racine. But the surprise is the state’s vouchers are not reserved for students in public schools, nor will public school students get priority for them. Sixty-seven percent of the voucher applications for this fall are from parents who are already paying private school tuition. According to the Associated Press, “those [lawmakers] closest on the deal were apparently unaware that the final version did not ultimately give public school students preference over those already in private schools.” Public school advocates in the legislature argued against expanding the voucher program because taxpayer dollars could be funneled to parents whose children already attended private school. Their concerns seem to be borne out as public money is now going directly to private religious schools. The state legislature has expanded the state’s school voucher coverage to 25 private schools, with a cap of 500 students. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction received 2,400 voucher applications even with an abbreviated application process from August 1-9. Half of the vouchers will be placed at private schools by random assignment and half through a lottery system.