Governor Scott Walker (R–WI) is in the news for suggesting an overhaul of public-sector collective bargaining, but in the midst of the controversy he has also offered a great proposal to expand school choice.
Walker’s biennial budget proposes expanding school choice in Wisconsin, including charter schools and vouchers. Most significantly, the budget lifts the cap on the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the nation’s oldest voucher program. More than 20,000 low-income students currently receive vouchers in Milwaukee, and lifting the cap would ensure that all low-income students in the city have access to safe and effective schools that meets their needs. Walker stated:
In addition, we will expand choice and charter programs to insure that every kid gets a great education—no matter what zip code they live in. We lift the cap on the number of students eligible to participate in the Milwaukee parental choice program and phase out the income eligibility limits. And across the state, we allow any University of Wisconsin system four-year campus to create a charter school.
Walker’s budget proposal also works to restore fiscal restraint in the state’s education spending. From 2000 to 2007, state spending on public education increased more than 32 percent, from $6.8 billion to more than $9 billion. Per-pupil expenditures in Wisconsin public schools now exceed the national average at more than $10,700.
Many states are facing economic turmoil and are faced with the reality of making long-overdue budget cuts to control spending and keep their fiscal houses in order. As Walker said to the state legislature earlier this week with his biennial budget proposal, which seeks to pay down some of the Badger State’s $4 billion deficit:
We must work together to bring our spending in line with reality. We were elected—not to make the easy decisions to benefit ourselves—but to make the difficult ones that will benefit our children and grandchildren.
Walker is continuing Wisconsin’s long tradition of providing school choice options to parents. He is transforming the education system in a way that will better equip students for a bright future. It’s yet another bold move in what have been a series of proposals to put more power back in the hands of teachers and families. Wisconsin is showing that it can rise to the challenge of meeting students’ educational needs.
Anissa Borchardt is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm