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Gov. Tony Evers pitches capping enrollment at private voucher schools

Posted at 5:21 PM, Feb 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-26 20:04:31-05

Gov. Tony Evers plans to propose capping enrollment at voucher schools when he presents his budget Thursday.

It will be one of many pieces to the governor's pitch to reform voucher schools.

"We are heartened and we are encouraged to see Governor Evers following through with promises that he’s made," said Amy Mizialko, president of the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association.

Mizialko believes the move is the first step to sunsetting the program opponents argue takes away from public schools.

"People in this state have been very clear about their unwavering support for public schools and their demands for the very basic resources that children deserve," said Mizialko.

Evers' office reported in the 2018-2019 school year that voucher participation grew 8.7 percent while costs grew 12.3 percent. He believes the current system in unsustainable.

Evers' proposal includes freezing the number of available slots in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. He claims doing so would save $3 million in FY21. Preliminary data from his staff states there are 129 schools and 28,067 students currently in MPCP. They say as students graduate new students can enroll.

"If I have children, I should be able to put my children wherever I want if I’m paying taxes," said Basimah Abdullah, administrator at Clara Mohammed School.

Abdullah said all of the 200-plus students use vouchers to attend. She added most of their families turn to the Islamic Choice School because of the support system and the community there.

Abdullah, who says she has protested in Madison for years in support of voucher schools, went on to say their school has a waitlist and limiting them will do more harm.

"It always hurts the poor people. That’s who it’s going to hurt. The people who already have the least number of choices, those are the ones who are going to get hurt more than anybody else," said Abdullah.

"If I have children, I should be able to put my children wherever I want if I’m paying taxes." — Basimah Abdullah, administrator at Clara Mohammed School

Evers' voucher schools proposal also includes freezing the number of slots available in the Wisconsin and Racine Parental Choice Program, prohibiting new students from enrolling in the Special Needs Scholarship Program starting in FY21, and pausing the authorization of new charter schools unless the school submits an intent to participate to the Department of Public Instruction.

Requiring private schoolteachers to be licensed, schools participating in choice programs to be fully accredited, investing in districts struggling with an achievement gap, and adding information on how much taxpayer money fund voucher schools to property tax bills will all be in the governor's proposal Thursday.