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Budget Committee Puts Off Votes on Governor's Voucher and Charter Plans


GOP lawmakers and Gov. Walker don't yet see eye-to-eye on expanding Wisconsin's school Choice or voucher program and creating a charter school board, so the Legislature's budget committee has delayed action on the items.

The governor's proposed state budget would expand vouchers to any school district in the state with at least 4,000 students and two failing schools. Until now, the program has operated only in Milwaukee and Racine, with Racine coming on board in recent times. A more limited Choice program began in Milwaukee in 1990.

Some legislators have bristled at the idea of expanding vouchers to what would amount to nine more school districts.

The Choice or voucher program allows students to attend private schools, with public funding paying the tuition and being subtracted from the public schools.

Wednesday morning, the budget committee also failed to approve Walker's plan to create a charter school board. It would charter agencies to operate public schools. Committee co-chair, Sen. Alberta Darling says the proposal will be removed from the budget and considered as a separate bill. Doing so, generally makes passage more challenging.

Opponents say the state's current charter system works well. In Milwaukee, the city, UWM and MPS are among the agencies granted authority to oversee charter schools. Most fall under the MPS umbrella.

Charter schools receive public funding, but are freed of some rules and standards that apply to the public system.