Impact of expanding school vouchers

GREEN BAY — Just two days before his state budget announcement, Republican Governor Scott Walker has proposed an expansion of the school voucher system.
The plan would cover nine communities, including Green Bay, Fond du Lac, and Sheboygan.
Under the governor's proposal, public tax dollars would be used to help fund private school tuition for students who attend underperforming public schools.

Story: Walker wants to expand voucher program

Vouchers would only be allowed in districts which have at least two schools receiving a "D" or an "F" grade on state report cards, and have an enrollment of at least 4,000 students. 
Green Bay currently has 15 schools with a D grade and four with an F.

"My goal as long term is to not necessarily add more districts that would be included in choice but is to have more districts where all their schools are either high achievers or rapidly improving schools, that's really our goal and our focus and that's where our funds are focused in on,” said Walker.

It's an issue that hits close to home.

Green Bay Area Public School District Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld made her feelings on the plan clear.

"To diminish it in terms of putting a black mark calling it failing, or to take away valuable resources to support a program that does not have a track record of great success for each and every child is extremely concerning," said Michelle Langenfeld, Green Bay Area Public Schools Superintendent.

Green Bay is one of nine school districts across the state which could get the voucher program.

If the budget is passed, $73 million would be spent over the next two years to expand the program.

The Catholic Diocese of Green Bay backs the plan. It could mean more students in these classrooms.

"What it opens up really is opportunity for the parents, families, here in Green Bay who may want to look seriously at a private school education for their sons or daughters," said Joseph Bound, Diocese Director of Education. 

State lawmakers have concerns about vouchers being part of the budget.

"I'm really much more interested in favor of investing in public schools, instead of sending public funding to private unaccountable schools," said State Rep. Eric Genrich, D-Green Bay.

"We have to make sure that all children get an opportunity to the same, share in the resources," said State Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon.

It's a competition over resources, and students.

"We know that the vouchers take dollars away from public school students to educate students in a private setting with no accountability," said Langenfeld.

"This could possibly develop more competition, within our individual institutions make us improve, both private schools public schools. To improve what we've already been doing," said Bound.

The governor will officially announce his budget proposal Wednesday.

It needs to be approved by the state legislature before heading back to the governor's desk.

That's expected in early June.

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


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According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Wisconsin’s population totaled 5,686,986, a 6.0% increase over the 2000 U.S. Census count of 5,363,715. (Source: Wisconsin Blue Book)
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