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As I See It

Wisconsin can no longer afford school voucher program



The goal may have been a noble one. But now, nearly 30 years later, Wisconsin’s school voucher program has spiraled out of control. The program began under former Governor Tommy Thompson in 1990 when public school students in Milwaukee were able to attend private schools at taxpayer expense. At that time, 350 impoverished students attending public schools in the Milwaukee district were able to attend private schools. Since, the program has expanded statewide, and now 26,000 students attend private schools at taxpayer expense. And the costs keep going up. This school year, the state is spending $68 million of our money to send students to private schools. Since the program began, costs have risen to a total of $2 billion. This at a time when our public schools are having a harder time making ends meet. One factor that caused public schools to suffer is that while the program initially provided separate funding for school vouchers, that money now follows a student. So public schools get less state money when students leave for private schools. That is one reason we are seeing so many school districts resorting to referendums to keep their doors open. And the income requirements have been expanded, so it is not just poor kids being given vouchers. Many families who sent their children to private schools were doing so at their own expense. Now taxpayers are on the hook. The state cannot afford to continue to operate two separate school systems, both run at the expense of Wisconsin taxpayers.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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