Gov. Evers will propose freeze on taxpayer-subsidized voucher programs and independent charter expansion

Governor Tony Evers will formally introduce his 2019-21 budget proposal on Thursday, February 28, but over the weekend shared some previews of what will be included in that document.  In the K-12 area, his budget will propose to freeze enrollment in the state’s private school voucher programs (including special needs vouchers) and suspend the expansion of independent charter schools.

Earlier, Gov. Evers had announced his proposed budget would aim to provide “more accountability and transparency” within the state’s private school voucher programs.  As one aspect of this. Gov. Evers will propose including information on property tax bills about the state aid withheld from public school districts in which private voucher pupils reside and the impact this has on property taxes. According to Molly Beck of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“Evers, the former chief of the state’s education agency, is seeking to freeze the number of students who may enroll in private voucher schools across the state, including in Milwaukee where the nation’s first voucher program began nearly 30 years ago.

“The governor’s budget also proposes to suspend the creation of new independent charter schools until 2023 and eliminates a program aimed at Milwaukee that requires county officials to turn persistently poor-performing schools into charter schools without district officials’ approval.

“The sweeping budget proposal also seeks to increase standards for teachers in private voucher schools and provide taxpayers with information about which schools their money funds.”

WASB members have long opposed the use of taxpayer dollars to subsidize private schools and the 2019 Delegate Assembly recently updated the WASB resolutions related to private school vouchers as follows:

2.70 Private School Aid/Voucher Funding

The WASB strongly opposes the use of state or federal taxpayer dollars to subsidize nonpublic schools or nonpublic students/parents through a system of vouchers, scholarship tax credits, tuition tax credits or deduction plans or other similar arrangements.

All publicly funded schools, including private schools receiving voucher funding, must have the exact same accountability and transparency standards and requirements.

The WASB opposes the current voucher funding mechanism, under which taxpayer financed vouchers are provided to private schools through deducting state aid from public school districts.  This harms the majority of Wisconsin’s students by diminishing resources available for public schools or requiring school boards to raise local property taxes to compensate for the lost aid. Creating two publicly supported education systems threatens the sustainability of public school districts.

The WASB supports legislation to require property tax bills to include information from the school district in which the property is located regarding the dollar amount (and percentage change) of the net reduction in state aid, if any, to the school district between the current year and the previous year as a result of pupils enrolled in statewide voucher program, the Racine voucher program, the Milwaukee voucher program, or the special needs voucher program.

2.705 Oppose Special Education Vouchers

The WASB opposes the use of state tax monies to provide special education vouchers for students with disabilities or other special educational needs to attend private schools located anywhere in the state and supports eliminating the Special Needs Scholarship program.