The sweeping schools plan by Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee would boost spending on public schools instead of cutting it by $127 million over two years as GOP Gov. Scott Walker has proposed.
It would also require the state to come up with education guidelines separate from the Common Core standards and have the state rate schools on a five-star scale — instead of the letter-grade system Walker wanted.
The statewide voucher program was created two years ago and is limited to 1,000 students. The latest plan would increase the cap to 1% of the student population of each district in the 2016-’17 school year. That percentage would increase annually for 10 years, when the limit would be removed entirely.
That voucher expansion is expected to cost $48 million over two years. That funding would eat into the increase public schools would receive.
Under another voucher expansion, special needs students could attend private schools at taxpayer expense if they have been denied transfer into a public school under the state’s open enrollment program. The schools would receive $12,000 per student each year.
The GOP proposal would also phase out the Chapter 220 school integration program, put the Milwaukee County executive in charge of some low-performing Milwaukee Public Schools, create an alternative system for licensing teachers and require that high school students take the civics test given to those applying for U.S. citizenship.
Overall, this is positive. The voucher expansion isn’t as fast as it should be and leaves the door open for a future legislature to reverse the expansion. Also, the funding for the extra money for public schools is being done with some smoke and mirrors.