On October 22, the Wisconsin Senate approved a measure to eliminate the enrollment cap placed on the Milwaukee voucher program, which limits participants to 15 percent of the enrollment in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), or about 15,000 students. The program currently enrolls about 12,950 students in 107 schools, with the state paying 55 percent of the cost of the voucher and MPS picking up 45 percent.
The following day, the Senate approved a further expansion of the voucher program to permit the participation of private schools throughout Milwaukee County, not just within the city. In addition, a bill was approved to permit students to remain in the program even if their parents’ income reached 220 percent—up from the current level of 175 percent—of the federal poverty level. The bills now go to Governor Jim Doyle for signature or veto.
Many Milwaukee Democrats fought the changes to the voucher program, arguing that Republican expansion advocates from the suburbs did not understand urban education issues.
“I don’t need to be patronized to about how all of you from up north are trying to look after African-American kids in my district,” said Sen. Gwendolynne Moore (D-Milwaukee).
“I don’t think it’s fair that we’re being told we’re being patronizing when we engage in the debate,” retorted Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau). He pointed out that school choice was having an effect statewide and nationwide.
Milwaukee Freeman Newspapers
October 24, 2003