Last night (11-9-14) on the Mike Gousha Show Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said, “I don’t want a cap at all” on vouchers. This aligns with School Choice Wisconsin’s call for “A voucher in every backpack!”
If voucher advocates are successful in expanding private school vouchers, this program would eventually become one of the largest taxpayer‐funded entitlements in Wisconsin.
So how much could this entitlement end up costing Wisconsin taxpayers?
Let’s just focus on those students currently enrolled in private school, because, of course, lawmakers wouldn’t deny those children access to a voucher simply because they are already enrolled in private school. It wouldn’t be fair and it probably wouldn’t be legal either. Let’s also remove the question of income eligibility because Walker has expressed his desire to remove the income eligibility requirements for vouchers.
Last year there were 97,488 students enrolled in private schools in Wisconsin but not receiving a taxpayer‐funded voucher. If we multiply 70% of that number by the K8 voucher allotment of $7050 it comes to $479 million and if we add that to the high school cost of private school students ($7856/student) it is over $708 million.
So what would voucher proponents have lawmakers do to fund this growing entitlement? Raise taxes?
In the 1990s, Gov. Tommy Thompson was asked about his lack of support for statewide voucher expansion. He answered, “We can’t afford two systems of education.” His words ring just as true today as they did then.
We simply can’t afford two systems of education in Wisconsin.
Voucher expansion is not only bad education policy. It is bad fiscal policy as well.
(This content is updated from a 2013 Capital Times Op-Ed by John Forester, director of government relations for the School Administrators Alliance)