School Choice & Charters

Milwaukee Voucher Schools to See Increased Accountability to State

By Caroline Hendrie — March 24, 2004 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Capping a legislative session that saw much spirited debate over Wisconsin’s school choice programs, Gov. James E. Doyle signed legislation last week that will subject private schools in Milwaukee’s voucher program to more stringent state oversight.

Prompted by recent problems at a few schools accepting voucher students, the law imposes new fiscal-reporting requirements on participating schools. It also lets the state schools chief immediately bar schools from receiving publicly financed vouchers if they fail to meet certain health, safety, and academic-performance standards.

“The signing of this bill represents a significant step forward in providing real operational accountability in the choice program, with clear consequences for failure to comply with specified requirements,” Elizabeth Burmaster, the state’s elected superintendent of public instruction, said in a statement. She said the measure “will go a long way in maintaining the financial integrity that taxpayers expect for use of tax dollars in the program.”

Under the 14-year-old Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, low-income families in the city can receive vouchers of roughly $5,800 to send their children to religious or secular private schools. More than 100 schools take part.

Gov. Doyle, a Democrat, signed the bill on March 16, the same day that he vetoed a companion measure that would have required schools in the program to conduct criminal-background checks of employees.

He also vetoed a measure that would have expanded students’ eligibility to enroll in the 10 charter schools in Milwaukee that were authorized by either the Milwaukee City Council or the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, rather than the district school board.

Reasons for Vetoes

In explaining his veto of the charter bill, Gov. Doyle said “any sweeping changes to the charter program should be accompanied with efforts to improve education for all of Milwaukee’s schoolchildren, whether they attend public, choice, or charter schools.”

Among other changes, the bill would have opened some charter school seats to out-of-town students and lifted a requirement that students in grades 4 or higher must first attend district-run schools for a year before entering nondistrict charter schools.

In vetoing the background-check bill, Mr. Doyle said he did not object to the screenings, but to provisions that he said would have exempted private schools participating in the voucher program from employment rules aimed at protecting workers from discrimination based on past criminal convictions.

But supporters of the bill said the schools needed the exemption to avoid having to keep or hire employees they deemed a risk to children, or otherwise undesirable after background checks.

“The choice schools said if you’re going to require us to go out and find out criminal backgrounds, then you have to give us the power to act on it,” said Rep. Scott R. Jensen, a Republican who chairs the education reform committee of the Assembly, the legislature’s lower house.

Events

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters Opinion 'Control Freaks' Are 'Losing Their Grip' on Education
"School choice evangelist" says new laws are a response to unions, bureaucracies, and K-12 ideologues.
12 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters Another State Is Launching a Private School Choice Program. Will More Follow?
Alabama is the 12th state to offer a private school choice program that all students in the state will be eligible to access.
5 min read
Image of students working at desks, wearing black and white school uniforms.
iStock/Getty
School Choice & Charters Tracker Which States Have Private School Choice?
Education savings accounts, voucher, and tax-credit scholarships are growing. This tracker keeps tabs on them so you don't have to.
School Choice & Charters Opinion What's the State of Charter Schools Today?
Even though there's momentum behind the charter school movement, charters face many of the same challenges as traditional public schools.
10 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty