Friday, June 17, 2011

Wisconsin Legislature Passes Budget Expanding Nation’s Oldest School Choice Program

A group of Milwaukee MPCP participants smile
during one of our many visits to the city.
Thousands of additional Wisconsin children will have access to greater educational options following last night’s passage of budget provisions that will significantly expand the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program—the oldest private school choice program in the nation—in size and scope.

Among the important provisions pertaining to school choice contained in the state’s 2011-2012 budget are:
  • A substantial increase in income eligibility for the program (an increase in over 70 percent of the previous income requirements)
  • The removal of the cap on the number of participants (which previously stood at 22,500 each year)
  • Expansion to the Racine school district (where large majorities supported bringing a school choice in a poll we conducted last month)
  • Participants can now attend schools anywhere in Wisconsin (previously, eligible schools were only those located in the city of Milwaukee)
Together, this expansion is perhaps the biggest change for the nation's oldest school choice program since its inception over 20 years ago. Our chairman, Betsy DeVos, had this to say:
We thank the leadership in the legislature for delivering this victory to low- and middle-income families across Wisconsin. For the past 20 years, thousands of lives have been improved as a result of parental choice in Milwaukee, and now more families in Milwaukee and Racine will have that chance at a brighter future, too.
It was a contentious debate that required all sides to compromise (for example, a proposal to bring school choice to Green Bay was removed prior to the final budget vote). And in the state Assembly the vote didn't take place until 3 a.m. Thursday morning, and only after 13 hours of debate.

But in the end—and on the whole—kids win. And for that, we're thankful. A special note of thanks must be said for Dr. Howard Fuller, whose endorsement of the expansion was integral to its passage. Many thanks to the great work of the folks at School Choice Wisconsin, too.

You can read our full release about the historic expansion here.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MAG

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