School Choice & Charters

Wis. Gov. to Seek Caps on Vouchers, Charters in Proposed Budget

By Arianna Prothero — February 26, 2019 1 min read

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers—one of several governors to come into office this year calling for a pause to school choice expansion—is taking a step toward fulfilling that promise.

Wisconsin is home to the nation’s first, modern-day voucher program, which was created almost three decades ago by a Democratic lawmaker from Milwaukee.

Evers, a Democrat, now aims to cap voucher use statewide and freeze new charter school openings in his two-year budget proposal, according to the Associated Press.

He also wants to do away with a program where consistently failing schools in Milwaukee can be converted into charters.

Although school vouchers have generally been less popular with Democratic lawmakers, charter schools have for a long time enjoyed much more bipartisan support—until recently.

Democratic opposition to charter schools has gained momentum since President Donald Trump appointed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a long-time donor to both the Republican Party and to school choice initiatives.

That opposition continued through the 2018 midterm elections. Teachers’ unions in particular sought to capitalize on DeVos’ unpopularity among Democrats by aggressively tying charter schools and their supporters to the secretary and to an agenda of a corporate takeover of public education.

Evers, a former teacher and state education chief, ousted incumbent Republican and school choice supporter Scott Walker. Newly-elected Democratic governors from California, to Illinois, to New Mexico have called for temporary moratoriums on charter schools.

Evers has more plans for vouchers, too, including additional regulation and transparency.

His budget, which will be released Thursday, will call for teachers in private schools that receive voucher money to have the same licensing as public school teachers. Evers will also propose a plan to include information on property tax bills that detail how much of residents’ tax dollars are going toward school vouchers.

Evers’ plans will meet stiff opposition in the legislature, which is still controlled by Republicans.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.