Monday, March 27, 2017

How the Nation’s Two Oldest School Voucher Programs Are Working: Part I—Wisconsin | janresseger

How the Nation’s Two Oldest School Voucher Programs Are Working: Part I—Wisconsin | janresseger:

How the Nation’s Two Oldest School Voucher Programs Are Working: Part I—Wisconsin

School voucher programs in Milwaukee and Cleveland are now over twenty-five years old.  Now both states have expanded statewide what began as stand-alone, big-city programs, and last week, local newspapers in Milwaukee and Cleveland examined these programs.  Today’s post will look at last week’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel‘s report on Wisconsin vouchers; tomorrow’s will look at Patrick O’Donnell’s recent Plain Dealer report on vouchers in Cleveland and Ohio.
Underneath both of these reports are some realities. Wisconsin and Ohio are among the 25 states today where conservative Republicans control the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature. In both states, school vouchers have created a set of private schools that receive public tax dollars. Both voucher programs are relatively small compared to the public schools that serve the mass of each state’s children.
In the new exploration of Wisconsin vouchers, Erin Richards explains: While President Donald Trump is pitching to boost federal spending on school choice programs by $1.4 billion—a down payment on his promise of $20 billion—Wisconsin is already demonstrating the complexities of expanding private-school choice to exurban America. Now that private schools outside of densely populated Milwaukee and Racine can tap into voucher funding, new tensions are bubbling up between religious conservatives eager to offer more students a religious-based education and district advocates who fear losing resources to private schools now competing for the same pot of public dollars… To qualify for a voucher in the statewide program, students have to come from families earning no more than 185% of the federal poverty level, or about $45,000 for a family of four or about $52,000 if the parents are married. The income limit for Racine and Milwaukee programs is 300% of the federal poverty level.”
Milwaukee’s voucher program dates back to 1990: “Milwaukee hosts the country’s longest-running urban school voucher program.  For decades, Wisconsin’s outstate city and school leaders watched from a distance the constant opening and shuttering of private schools in the 27-year-old Milwaukee Parental Choice Program—and the battles over funding and accountability… Then in 2011, the GOP-led Legislature approved replicating the Milwaukee voucher program in Racine… Two years later, Gov. Scott Walker signed into law a statewide expansion and a separate special-needs voucher program.”  “State law caps voucher-student enrollment at 2% of a district’s population this year, a figure that is rising 1% each subsequent year of the program—unless lawmakers act to lift the cap more quickly.”
Wisconsin’s statewide program also involves a required local school district tax assessment as a local contribution to each voucher. In an FAQ published before the current statewide program was passed in 2013, the Wisconsin School Boards Association explained how the breakdown of state-local contributions would be likely to work: “Under current law, the state pays 61.6 percent of the total cost of the voucher (or about $3,969 per voucher student) directly. The remaining 38.4 percent of the voucher (or about $2,474 per voucher student) is How the Nation’s Two Oldest School Voucher Programs Are Working: Part I—Wisconsin | janresseger:


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