Expansion of the voucher program

Improved choice for families in Wisconsin via a tax credit?

One approach from state Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, would give parents who send their children to private schools a tax credit.

Grothman said Wisconsin families who send their children to private schools are paying double duty. Homeowners pay local property taxes that go towards funding public schools.

“It’s vital in this time as people keep getting squeezed financially by higher and higher property taxes that parents who exercise their freedom and send their children (to private school) receive a little bit of support from their tax return,” he said.

Some details of what will be proposed.

The credit will start at $1,500 per year for every first grade student and $2,500 for every ninth grade student. The following year, second and tenth graders will be added to the program with additional years added each year until all students will be covered by the 2021 school year.

Senator Grothman’s proposal is co-sponsored by Representative Andre Jacque.

“As a proud supporter of charter school expansion, open enrollment for public schools, and non-public school choice it is very important to be consistent in offering families in my district, and across the state, access to the full range of educational alternatives. When it comes to educational instruction, one type doesn’t fit all,” said Representative Jacque, further noting that the proposal would not reduce state public school funding. “We should always look at enhancing our state educational offerings to benefit students,” added Jacque.

While a tax credit would be good what about expansion of the Milwaukee program?

State Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and state Rep. Robin Vos, R-Racine, the co-chairs of the powerful Joint Finance Committee, are drafting a different voucher proposal.

Vouchers give poorer students the opportunity to enroll in specific private schools that meet compliance standards set by the state, such as teachers with bachelor’s degrees and statewide testing procedures.

As of now, vouchers are only allowed for K-12 students who reside in Milwaukee. Eligibility for the vouchers is limited by income, depending on the size of the family.

Jim Huebscher, executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, is generally supportive of providing more options to parents and their children.

“I think the Milwaukee program seems to work pretty well for the Catholic schools in Milwaukee, so if that’s the same model, I assume we’d be OK with it,” he said.

Not surprisingly there is opposition who wants the status quo.

But Joe Quick, a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, has concerns.

“School board members across the state are uniformally opposed to using public dollars for private schools. It’s just the antithesis of public education,” he said.

If for those involved in public schools it truly was “about the children” they wouldn’t be opposed to expansion of the voucher program or any option that gives parents a choice in where to obtain their child’s education.

Whether the voucher program is expanded  via a tax credit or expansion of the Milwaukee program it will be a positive for parents who want a choice in how and where their children are educated.

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