Gov. Tony Evers (D) is proposing to roll back school choice programs in Wisconsin.
Evers’ Executive Budget, released to the public on February 28, would freeze the number of students receiving tuition scholarships to attend private schools and suspend the creation of new charter schools until 2023.
“According to the budget document, students currently participating in choice programs would not be affected by proposed changes,”states an analysis by the Wisconsin-based think tank the McIver Institute.
“However, the ban on adding new seats or students will almost certainly lead to school closures,” states McIver.
Denying Special Needs Children
The proposed budget would cap enrollment in the Special Needs Scholarship Program (SNSP) established in 2015, which gives students with special needs state scholarships to attend private schools, says McIver.
“Currently, 662 students participate in the program, more than triple the enrollment just two years ago when the program began,” the McIver analysis states.
“A 2019 audit by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) showed that parents reported strong satisfaction with the program, including improved behavior from their children and more positive relationships with peers compared to their experiences in public schools,” states the McIver analysis.
Praise for Charter School Competition
Charter schools are an important education alternative, says Timothy Benson, a policy analyst at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News.
“Nationally, charters have provided a way out of failing traditional public schools for nearly three million children, and they provide competition for a bloated, sclerotic, unaccountable, union-run government-school system,” said Benson. “This competition helps improve outcomes not just for the children who take advantage of school choice programs but also for those who remain in their neighborhood public schools.”
Evers’ proposals are unlikely to make it through the Republican-controlled state legislature, says Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau).
“Wisconsinites should have more choices when it comes to the education of their children, not fewer,” Fitzgerald told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a February 25 story. “We will not support a budget that includes this proposal.”
Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.
Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau):
“Analysis: What You Need to Know About Gov. Tony Evers’ First Biennial Budget,” McIver Institute, March 5, 2019: