Governor stirs student voucher debate

GREEN BAY — Governor Scott Walker is vowing to readdress the expansion of the school voucher system. The aim is give struggling students the opportunity to succeed, at state expense, at a private school.

How would that benefit Green Bay's Notre Dame Academy?

"Well I think it benefits families and kids," said Notre Dame President Bob Pauly.

Pauly says his school has room for about 15 additional students a year with a voucher program. 

In Milwaukee, where vouchers are already used, the state pays up to $6,400 a child. The money is taken from public school districts where the student is enrolled. Tuition at Notre Dame costs about $5,000 a year.

"I'm not looking to undermine their kids, their schools," said Pauly of the public school districts. "What we'd like to offer is the option for a faith-based education."

Green Bay is one of the districts targeted for the voucher program in the past. District administrators oppose the voucher plan saying if it's an alternative to a traditional education, they are providing those programs like the International Baccalaureate program at West High School.

"People talk about choice, we have expanded the choice offerings in our schools dramatically in recent years," pointed out Mike Blecha, legislative liaison for the Green Bay School Board.

In addition to the IB program in all grades, other options for students now include a fine arts academy, a technical college partnership and a charter school.

"Our schools are not failing we are in the process of insuring every child is college, career and community ready," said Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld.

Langenfeld adds that funding the alternative options would be eroded with the implementation of the voucher program.

"The piece that's problematic is the monies would be taken out of the public monies for public education to educate all children and put in a private setting without any voice from the taxpayer," said Langenfeld.

Green Bay schools are an open book from test scores to budgets. While Langenfeld says private schools don't fall under the same scrutiny.

Pauly says student achievement though will be watched closely.

"I think (the voucher program) is good for competition. It's good for everybody. It's good for us to hold us accountable, it's good for the public schools so they maximize their educational product.”

Green Bay administrators are hoping the public gets involved in the debate through planned gatherings at area schools and a state of the district address scheduled for 10:30 a.m. next Tuesday at Green Bay West High School.

Copyright 2014 WLUK TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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