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Gov. Walker Proposes Educational Choice Expansions

Posted on Monday February 18, 2013 | Wisconsin

MADISON, WI (February 18, 2013)—The American Federation for Children—the nation's voice for educational choice—today applauded Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for his budget proposals that would expand parental choice—including private school choice and charter school authorizing—and create a statewide special needs scholarship.

Governor Walker is also announcing today that, in addition to new and expanded educational choice options, his proposed 2013-15 biennial budget will provide per-pupil funding increases for students in private school choice and independent charter school programs.  Per-pupil funding for private school choice and independent charter school students has remained unchanged for many years, and low-income choice students even saw their funding cut in the 2009-11 biennial budget.

The additional educational options include:

  • Expansion of private school choice—currently only available to low-income and working-class parents in Milwaukee and Racine—to any school district containing at least two schools identified by the Department of Public Instruction’s School Report Cards as meeting few expectations or failing to meet expectations.  Observers often refer to these classifications as ‘D’ and ‘F’ grades, respectively.  At present, this would expand private school choice to Beloit, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Sheboygan, Superior, Waukesha, and West Allis-West Milwaukee;
  • Creation of a board that could authorize local, non-profit entities to create charter schools within any school district containing at least two ‘D’ or ‘F’ schools;
  • Creation of a statewide special needs scholarship, which would ensure that parents of special needs children have the power and resources to decide where and how their children are educated; and
  • Creation of a “course choice” program wherein students can enroll in up to two courses offered by public K-12 schools, University of Wisconsin institutions, technical colleges, and other Department of Public Instruction-approved nonprofits.

“Governor Walker recognizes that more children in Wisconsin—particularly low-income, working-class, and special needs students—deserve to attend the school that their parents believe is best for them,” said former D.C. City Councilman and AFC Executive Counsel Kevin P. Chavous.  “It is very fitting that Wisconsin, the state which created the first private school choice program, is poised to expand educational choice throughout the state so that more children can reach their full potential in a safe, high-quality school.”

In 1990, then-Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson and a bipartisan coalition of legislators launched the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the first private school choice program in the nation.  That program and the Racine Parental Choice Program, which was created in the previous state budget, serve nearly 25,500 low-income and working-class families in those two school districts.