Wisconsin News

School funding, vouchers focus of budget hearing

LA CROSSE, Wis. - The public is weighing in on Gov. Scott Walker's (R-Wisconsin) proposed budget for the state.

The two year-plan is the focus of several hearings going on this week around the state, including one hosted by area Democratic lawmakers Monday evening in La Crosse.

School funding and expansion of school vouchers in Wisconsin continue to be two of the most controversial parts of the budget.

"I am a living testimony to what the public schools have done for low income people," said Va Thao, who attended the hearing at the Hogan Administrative Building.


Critics say diverting money from public education to private and voucher schools is a bad idea.

"It's beyond my fathom why anyone would want to do this to our public school system," said Margaret Wood, of La Crosse.

The hearing started with a presentation from a staffer from the Department of Public Instruction. Jeff Pertl made the case that expansion of vouchers is a bad investment.

"Even though we've had vouchers in Milwaukee for about 20 years, there's no data that shows they really do improve student achievement," said Pertl, who is an advisor to State Superintendent Tony Evers.

No one at the hearing spoke in defense of expanding school vouchers. Although, during his budget address in February, Governor Walker argued it will give parents more options.

"While we work to improve underperforming schools, our children can't afford to wait.  This is why we provide new choices for parents in areas where schools are failing to meet expectations," said Walker.

"At this point, I am for no further expansion," said State Rep. Jill Billings (D-La Crosse).

Billings co-hosted Monday's budget hearing with State Rep. Chris Danou (D-Trempealeau) and State Rep. Steve Doyle (D-Onalaska).

Billings says the public input does make a difference.

"We want to make sure we have a good feeling for what our area feels and have some good stories from our area to take to Madison," she said.

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