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Walker proposes voucher program expansion

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ONALASKA, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- During his budget address Wednesday night, Gov. Scott Walker laid his budget proposal, which outlined plans for funding education.  Part of that plan includes expanding the voucher program, which is currently only in place in Milwaukee and Racine. The program provides state subsidies for students to attend private schools.

"For communities where some schools fail to meet expectations, we include an expansion of the parental choice program in this budget," Walker said.

The Governor's proposal would provide vouchers in districts with more than 4,000 students and two or more schools with a ‘D' or ‘F' grade on the state report card. Meaning, nine districts in the state would be eligible. But, some wonder if state funds should be invested in private schools.

"The question is: is the legislature suppose to fund public education or is the legislature suppose to public ally fund education?" said Dr. Francis Finco, the superintendent for Onalaska schools. "And there's a big difference."

No district in The Coulee Region would qualify for a voucher program, but Finco says there is an indirect impact.

"That's the problem with vouchers, there's only a finite pot of money that goes to schools, and if it goes to private schools or parochial or charter, it doesn't go to public," Finco said.

Families making 300 percent of the federal poverty level or less in those under performing districts can receive the private school tuition assistance.

"Since wealthy families have a choice because they can pay to send their children to a private school, we give low income and middle class families an opportunity to also chose a viable alternative," Walker said.

However those private schools aren't required to meet the same standards as public schools.

"There's no accountability or little accountability for schools that get voucher funds like there is for schools that get voucher funds," Finco said. "People argue about that too, you know, should it be fair if public money is going for private schools, should they also have to accept all students, and should they get a school report card and so on."

The voucher expansion along with the rest of the budget must be approved by the state legislature before any changes would go in to effect.

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