College/Back to School
Parental choice in Milwaukee remains intact
Program allows 15,000 low income students to attend private schools
The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program will remain intact and
preserve the right of participating parents to choose the best
educational environment for their children under an agreement on
the state budget.
The program had come under significant scrutiny during budget
deliberations and faced proposals offered by Senate Democrats
that would have effectively ended the program.
The program allows up to 15,000 low income parents in Milwaukee
to choose private schools for the children. Currently, about
9,600 students attend 103 private schools under the program.
Studies show that the program results in higher parent
satisfaction, increased parental involvement, and positive
responses from public schools in Milwaukee. The program also has
generated $55 million of planned and completed private investment
to expand classroom space in some of the most distressed
neighborhoods in the city.
Members of the legislature's conference committee announced
agreement on a budget package, July 25, 2001, in Madison. The
agreement includes resolution of a funding issue that concerned
school districts outside Milwaukee. The new method of funding
ensures that no school district gains or loses as a consequence
of school choice.
"Parents not only in Milwaukee, but in the state of Wisconsin
have been affirmed by the state legislature that their role in
the development of their child's values and education is a right
that will be supported by the state. The common good prevailed,"
stated Lee Nagel, President of the Wisconsin Council of Religious
and Independent Schools.
Preservation of the choice program was achieved in large part
through the leadership of Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, Rep.
John Gard and their colleagues in the Republican Assembly Caucus,
and the efforts of Representative Antonio Riley, Sen. Alberta
Darling, Sen. Bob Welch, and Gov. Scott McCallum.