Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker and the state legislature expanded the voucher program despite its failure in Milwaukee. To zealots, evidence doesn’t matter. In some small communities, the voucher money is subtracted from the local public school to subsidize students already enrolled in religious schools. The many will see their education impoverished to subsidize those who never attended public schools. Others are fearful that the fabric of community life will be injured by this diversion of public dollars and civic support to private schools.  Walker is a favorite of the Koch brothers, which may explain his eagerness to destroy public schools. The Koch’s backed him as a candidate for president in 2016, but he didn’t last long. His love of vouchers is destabilizing communities across the state.

 

“When Superintendent Sue Kaphingst moved to Chilton less than a year ago, she marveled at how the northeastern Wisconsin community rallied around its local school district.

“Nestled to the east of Lake Winnebago about 75 miles north of Milwaukee, Chilton and its 3,900 residents felt cohesive. Football stars acted in the high school musical. Parents, students and school board members created a yarn art installation on the Chilton Middle School lawn to demonstrate that they were all connected. The high school theater was built with millions from a local family who owned pet supplies company Kaytee Products.

“But there’s a new development here and in other communities across Wisconsin that will test those ties: school vouchers. Four years after the GOP-led Legislature approved a statewide voucher program, the number of private schools registered to receive taxpayer-funded tuition subsidies has sharply increased. Together with the longstanding Milwaukee voucher program and the more recent Racine voucher program, close to 300 private, predominantly religious schools from Lake Superior to the Illinois border are poised to receive taxpayer funding for an estimated 33,750 students this fall, according to Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget.“For the first time, the Chilton School District could face either an enrollment drop because children will use a voucher to attend the local Catholic school they couldn’t otherwise afford, or more likely, the district will have to raise taxes to fund vouchers for children who already attend the private school.

“Together, the state’s voucher programs are expected to cost about $263 million in 2017-’18, according to Walker’s budget proposal.

“While President Donald Trump is pitching to boost federal spending on school choice programs by $1.4 billion — a down payment on his promise of $20 billion — Wisconsin is already demonstrating the complexities of expanding private-school choice to exurban America. Now that private schools outside of densely populated Milwaukee and Racine can tap into voucher funding, new tensions are bubbling up between religious conservatives eager to offer more students a religious-based education and district advocates who fear losing resources to private schools now competing for the same pot of public dollars.

“There’s only so much money,” said Kaphingst, the Chilton superintendent. “You’re taking from one for the other.”