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Ban on Fees is Proposed for Milwaukee Choice Plan

The architect of the pioneering school-voucher program in Milwaukee is pushing her colleagues in the Wisconsin legislature to impose tighter rules on the private schools that participate.

Rep. Annette "Polly" Williams is backing a proposal by state education officials to bar private schools in the program from charging voucher students registration and book fees that public schools do not impose, according to Greg Doyle, the spokesman for the state education department, which proposed the rule last month.

The department also proposed that schools be prohibited from requiring the parents of voucher students to participate in school fund-raising efforts.

Critics argue that the measure would stigmatize those students by forcing schools to treat their families differently from the families of other students.

State lawmakers are expected to review the proposed changes early this year.

Meanwhile, a proposed expansion of the choice program to religious schools, signed into law by Gov. Tommy G. Thompson last July, remains on hold while opponents challenge its constitutionality in the state supreme court. (See Education Week, Sept. 6, 1995.)

Construction-Aid Cuts Urged

Vermont should scale back the amount of construction aid the state offers to school districts and give less aid to wealthy districts, a legislative study committee has urged.

The panel adopted a list of recommendations last month for a formula that would determine school districts' eligibility for such aid.

The panel also recommended that the highest level of school-construction aid should be offered only for safety-related projects for the next two years.

The legislature repealed the state's generous construction-aid program last year. That law is to go into effect in March.

The previous law had guaranteed that the state would pay for up to 50 percent of the cost of any approved construction project and 70 percent of debt-service costs. (See Education Week, April 19, 1995.)

According to Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, the chairman of the Joint Committee on School Construction, the state still needs to find ways to pay off its existing construction debt.

Before the law was repealed, reductions in the state's bonding authority and a boom in school construction resulted in a backlog of $10 million in unfunded projects.

The panel's recommendations will be forwarded to the Senate education committee and will serve as the basis for future legislation.

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