OPINION: Ed Reform Champion Rallies Around Walker's School Choice Plan
From Robert Enlow in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Gov. Scott Walker has emerged from a monthlong battle without losing heart to speak up for the ones with no voice in the fight for education reform: children.
Walker, a believer in educational freedom, has offered the Legislature a two-year budget plan that expands Milwaukee’s 20-year-old voucher program to help all students.
It is ironic, but this move should prompt the protesters to lay down their signs and start shouting for Walker instead of against him. There are almost 210,000 households in Milwaukee, with more than 90% of them earning less then $100,000. That’s less than the average Milwaukee Public Schools teacher earns in annual compensation, according to the Journal Sentinel.
The point isn’t to attack teachers but to show that what many consider “poverty” to qualify for a school voucher is not the same amount of income it actually takes to survive – and thrive – in America.
Milwaukee’s voucher program was the first in the nation, launched in 1990. But it has been continuously battered by union opponents. Their lobbying limited the number of families that could participate in the program by restricting the qualifications for families.
Currently, only a child from a Milwaukee family earning up to 175% of the poverty level can qualify for a voucher, worth $6,442, to transfer to the private school of his or her choice. That means today only a family of four earning up to $39,000 can qualify.
With a ceiling on the number of students who can participate, the program’s impact has been limited although still positive. That’s why Walker’s plan to open the program to all students is welcome news, as unrestricted freedom will work even better to improve MPS and increase the academic achievement of children.
For example, if a large grocer has a monopoly in a neighborhood and a convenience store opens on the corner selling milk and bread, there isn’t enough competition to force the large grocer to offer better products. However, if three convenience stores and two other larger grocery stores open, customers suddenly will see an improvement in the products available. The same happens in education, as parents always win with multiple education choices. Such will be the case in Milwaukee when all parents have the choice of a private or public school.
Expanding school choice in Milwaukee is also good for taxpayers and should be offered to Wisconsin parents in every major city. School choice saves taxpayers big bucks.
The per-pupil cost to educate a child in Milwaukee is $13,229, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Yet the voucher program funded by the state is about half that at $6,442, which covers a good portion of tuition at many parochial and private schools. Parents are more than willing to make up any difference when they can put their child in a quality school.