AFC Applauds Proposed Expansion of School Choice in Wisconsin

Governor's plan would greatly enlarge choice program in Milwaukee

Mar 02, 2011, 16:13 ET from American Federation for Children

MILWAUKEE, March 2, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Federation for Children today praised provisions of a new proposal from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker that would significantly increase the number of educational options for low-income Milwaukee families by expanding access to the nation's oldest school choice program.

Walker unveiled a host of new education reform provisions yesterday in the presentation of his biennial budget proposal to the state legislature. Among them is a major expansion of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP), which provides scholarships to over 20,000 low-income children to allow them to attend a qualifying private school of their parents' choice. The governor's proposal would eliminate the cap on the number of students that can be enrolled in the program, expand the program to a larger population of Milwaukee residents, and extend the number of eligible schools to all of Milwaukee County.

"We will expand choice and charter programs to ensure that every kid gets a great education—no matter what zip code they live in," Walker said in his speech unveiling the proposal yesterday.

The plan also calls for the expansion of virtual and charter school options, with the elimination of the cap on the state's virtual school participants and bringing teaching requirements for charter schools in line with those for schools in the MPCP. Walker's proposal would also extend the period for open public school enrollment by more than two months.

"Expanding the number of low-income students who have access to school choice is a critical component to our ultimate goal of ensuring that every child has access to the quality education they deserve," said Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children. "Empowering Wisconsin families to take charge of their children's educational future is a model that other states should follow."

Additional provisions in the plan include an expansion of charter authority to all four-year state universities, which could result in an increase in the number of the state's charter schools. The plan would also increase the lines of communication between the Department of Public Instruction and MPCP parents regarding any rule or deadline changes.

SOURCE American Federation for Children