Lawmakers voice concerns about school vouchers

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Public education is at risk, that was the message from some Democratic lawmakers Tuesday.

They and some La Crosse School District staff spoke out against Governor Walker’s plan to use tax dollars to fund private schools.

La Crosse School Superintendent Randy Nelson said the district has cut $3 to $4 million from its budget over the last few years.

He also said the district is looking at making more cuts in the coming year.

“Now that the state budget has been balanced, and there is even somewhat of a surplus, it seems to be a good opportunity to start bringing back the schools, and bringing the schools back on board with additional funding,” said Nelson.

Nelson said a funding formula shows the voucher plan could cost La Crosse taxpayers $1.2 million a year by 2016.

But, La Crosse County Republican Party Chair Julian Bradley said the voucher plan provides students with more options.

“I don’t think this punishes public schools. What I think it does is it rewards kids that are working really hard by getting them out of a bad schooling system, and will give them a little bit better of an opportunity,” said Bradley.

Representative Jill Billings said public schools are already trying to do more with less, and will suffer under the voucher plan.

“This expansion of our public tax dollars into private schools does punish our public school system, because we have a finite dollar amount of resources,” said Billings.

Vouchers are currently being used in the Milwaukee and Racine School Districts.

We tried contacting Aquinas Schools, but the president was unavailable.