Wisconsin Legislative Committee Acts to Expand School Choice in Milwaukee & Create New Program in Racine

Jun 03, 2011, 13:06 ET from American Federation for Children

Expansion, largest in 16 years, benefits children from low-and middle-income families

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Committee on Finance last night acted to increase educational options for thousands of Wisconsin children by expanding the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and creating a new private school choice program for Racine.

The American Federation for Children—the nation's voice for school choice—said that the legislation, if enacted, would mark the most significant expansion of the state's school choice offerings in 16 years. Currently, the 20-year-old Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) allows more than 20,000 children from low-income families to receive state-funded scholarships to attend the private schools of their parents' choice. 

The legislation—which comprises proposals from Democratic and Republican lawmakers—would eliminate the student enrollment cap on the MPCP, expand the program to include middle-income families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, increase the number of private schools eligible to accept students with vouchers, and eliminates the possibility that students initially eligible could be removed from the choice program if their parents' income increases after their children have been admitted.

The highly successful MPCP has yielded significant benefits to student participants. A study, released earlier this year, demonstrated that children participating in the choice program posted graduation rates that are 18 percentage points higher than graduation rates in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).

The legislation would also create the Racine Parental Choice Program, benefiting children from low-and middle-income families who live in the Racine Unified School District. The program would start with 250 students in 2011-12, 500 students in 2012-13, and be allowed to expand with no cap in following years. 

"Tonight, the Joint Finance Committee took a courageous stand on behalf of parents who seek only to send their children to excellent schools that are challenging, productive, safe, and accountable," said AFC's Brian Pleva, who is based in Madison. "We call on the full Assembly to pass this historic expansion. Now is the time to expand school choice in Wisconsin and to give children hope for a brighter future."

AFC specifically praised the committee's co-chairs, Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Representative Robin Vos (R-Burlington) for championing the expansion proposals.

For more information, please visit www.FederationForChildren.org

SOURCE American Federation for Children