Milwaukee Voucher Chronology

Published September 1, 1998
1989 Wisconsin State Representative Annette “Polly” Williams, State Senator Gary George, and Governor Tommy Thompson sponsor legislation leading to the 1990 enactment of the original Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.
1990 The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program is launched, limited to non-sectarian schools, with enrollment capped at 1 percent of the Milwaukee Public Schools enrollment (993 students), and with per-pupil funding of less than half the funding for MPS students.
1992 PAVE (People Advancing Values in Education) is formed–a private program established to provide scholarships to meet demand until the state’s program is expanded.
1994 A coalition of parents, employers, and other civic leaders supports a major expansion of the MPCP.
1995 June 29: The Wisconsin General Assembly approves Governor Thompson’s plan to expand the MPCP to sectarian schools and thousands more students.
July 26: The MPCP expansion is signed into law. Within three weeks, 100 schools express interest and more than 2,000 new students enroll.
August 25: With many students already in class, the Wisconsin Supreme Court enjoins all aspects of the expansion program. Multi-million dollar community fundraising efforts enabled PAVE to provide alternative scholarships first in 1995, again in 1996, and again in 1997.
1996 The Wisconsin State Supreme Court ties 3-3 on the expanded program’s constitutionality, throwing the case back to the Dane County Circuit Court.
1997 In January, Dane County Judge Paul Higginbotham overturns the 1995 expansion, a decision upheld later that year by a Wisconsin Court of Appeals.
1998 March: The State Supreme Court hears oral arguments on an appeal of the Appeals Court ruling.
June 10: The state court rules in favor of the 1995 expansion.