Schools support taxpayer transparency bill

Bill would impact voucher program

A bill in the Wisconsin State Legislature could change what you see on your tax bill.

The Holmen School Board recently passed a resolution supporting the Wisconsin Voucher Taxpayer Transparency Bill.

The bill would allow taxpayers to see how much money a school district loses when a student from that district enrolls in the statewide voucher program.

West Salem Superintendent Troy Gunderson shared his concerns over the state’s private voucher system.

The program, enacted in 2013, allows qualified students to receive state money to attend private schools.

“A large majority of the children taking the vouchers were children already attending private education. So you’re not literally providing choice, what you’re doing is paying for people who already choose a different education for their children,” Gunderson said.

A bill circulating by Democrats in Madison wouldn’t make changes to the program.

Instead, the state aid lost to districts by each student would be reflected in each resident’s tax bill.

“The school district would want to illustrate how much is going out to private vouchers and then what that net impact is to the taxpayer as well,” said Karl Green, community natural resource and economic development educator for the UW-Extension in La Crosse County.

While the reduction in aid lost to children attending private school hasn’t hit West Salem hard yet, Gunderson supports Holmen’s school board’s opinion of the bill.

“They are going to continue to expand vouchers, and they ought to have the wherewithal or the integrity to tell you what they’re spending on it,” Gunderson said. “In the scope of our large budget, at this point in time, its not a lot yet, but you begin to open the door to making it a universal widely accessible program as well.”

Gunderson said this matter should be important to everyone, no matter what school they support.

“Things like making it transparent and arguing about how many and where is it appropriate — those are things we should all pay attention to,” Gunderson said.

In the resolution passed by the Holmen School Board, the board says its school district had to levy more than $100,000 to make up for the difference in kids there that are using the statewide voucher program.

La Crosse Aquinas remains the only private school in our area participating in the statewide voucher program.