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Gov. Walker defends plan to expand private school voucher program

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MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Governor Scott Walker says he wants to improve Wisconsin’s public schools, but parents need viable alternatives if their schools do not meet expectations.

That’s how Walker explains his state budget proposals to create more private schools that teach low-income kids with tax-funded vouchers – admit special needs students into the voucher program – and form a new board to start up more independent public charter schools.

At the same time, public schools would get no increase in their state revenue limits. That means a one-percent school aid hike would be given to taxpayers. And they would decide in referendums whether their schools deserve the added aid in the form of revenue cap exemptions.

In the meantime, more of Wisconsin’s largest school districts would lose some of their state aid, as kids head off to private schools under the expanded vouchers. And that’s got some of Walker’s own Republicans in the Legislature concerned.

Four GOP senators have expressed reservations – enough to force changes in the budget plan, since the party only has a three-vote majority. Senators Rob Cowles, Dale Schultz, Luther Olsen, and President Mike Ellis are demanding that new voucher programs be approved by voters in the affected districts.

State public school superintendent Tony Evers says he’s against giving such a large amount of new money to a small percentage of students – while banning revenue growth for the vast majority of Wisconsin youngsters who attend public schools.

But Walker’s plan is expected to sail through the Assembly, where the GOP has a 20 vote majority.

Speaker Robin Vos says kids deserve the best education, and expanding vouchers would, “give options to those stuck in under-performing schools.” 

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