September 13, 2023

Legislators Look to End Voucher System, Increase Accountability and Transparency

Legislators Look to End Voucher System, Increase Accountability and Transparency Featured Image

The Democrats in the Wisconsin Legislature held a news conference this week to announce that they are circulating a number of Public Money for Public Schools bill drafts designed to reverse the rapidly growing privatization of public schools. The six pieces of legislation focus on providing accountability and transparency, and putting an end to more than 30 years of experimental school voucher programs in Wisconsin.

Last school year, voucher programs moved more than $443 million in public money away from neighborhood public schools and into programs that are unaccountable to taxpayers. This massive transfer of public money continues to occur without community involvement and lacks the transparency regarding how those funds are spent that we would otherwise expect. For more than three decades, voucher programs have taken an ever-growing portion of public funds while fervently advocating against public transparency into their own finances.

The Democrats in the state Senate and Assembly who have already signed onto the bills are saying, “We must do better for our students and communities. Wisconsin cannot afford to fund two competing school systems, and we need urgent action to stop the unchecked expansion of the voucher programs.”

Wisconsin’s Legislative Reference Bureau has numbered and described the six bills:

LRB 4020: Relating to teacher and administrator licensure in parental choice programs and in the Special Needs Scholarship Program and granting rule-making authority.

LRB 4014: Relating to phasing out the Special Needs Scholarship Program and limiting enrollment in parental choice programs.

LRB 4055: Relating to payments for pupils who withdraw from a parental choice program, the Special Needs Scholarship Program, or an independent charter school.

LRB 4057: Relating to including with the property tax bill information about state aid reduction to school districts.

LRB 4236: Relating to state aid to the resident school district of a pupil attending a private school under the Racine or statewide parental choice program.

LRB 4295: Relating to phasing out parental choice programs and the Special Needs Scholarship Program, repealing the achievement gap reduction program and the student achievement guarantee program, creating a new student achievement guarantee program, granting rule-making authority, and making an appropriation.