School vouchers, do they help or hurt?

By: Amelia Cerling Email
By: Amelia Cerling Email

ELEVA, Wisc. (WEAU) --Small school districts in the Chippewa Valley say new legislation allowing more school vouchers could have big implications for the future of public schools.

On Thursday, Governor Walker signed a new bill expanding the school voucher program to Milwaukee County and Racine.

The voucher program essentially takes public taxpayer funds and funnels that to private schools, giving children of lesser means access to a different type of education.

Superintendent of Eleva-Strum schools Craig Semingson says he's not sure why there's been a nationwide shift towards voucher programs, but he does know how it would affect students in his district.

“The voucher program I believe would hurt smaller public schools. Our budgets are tight anyways and if we lose even one student it would have a fairly large impact on our budget,” Semingson explains.

He says he is philosophically opposed to the nature of voucher programs, and adds research doesn't back up supporting the program on academic grounds.

“I believe it's a political agenda, because I don't know of any research out there that shows that the public school/private school voucher program increases student achievement,”

Semingson says according to a Department of Public Instruction report, students in the voucher program did worse or at best the very same as their counterparts across the state.

“Which makes me question what the motive is for continuing the voucher program or even wanting to expand the voucher program,” Semingson says.

Meanwhile, Governor Walker's press office released this statement saying,

"Governor Walker supports empowering parents by providing them with additional options to choose from when looking at education for their children. This will ultimately improve education for all children by encouraging competition. Under the Governor’s budget proposal if parents feel that their children will get a better education at a public school than at a choice school, they have the freedom to enroll their children in the public school system.”

School vouchers aren't just a contentious topic in Wisconsin lawmakers recently passed legislation creating or expanding programs in Virginia, Florida and Louisiana.

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