There was a window from 1995 to 1998 when it wasn’t clear what the future of private school vouchers would be in Wisconsin.
The state Legislature voted in 1995 to increase the number of vouchers available to low-income Milwaukee children and, for the first time, to allow students attending religious schools to take part. A court challenge followed, of course.
I remember a piece of wisdom I heard at that time from Jeanette Mitchell, a former president of the Milwaukee School Board who had connections with people on both sides of the voucher issue. She said it would be very hard to turn on the voucher faucet. But if it was turned on, it would be very hard to turn off.
In 1998, the Wisconsin Supreme Court turned on the faucet, ruling that it was constitutional to allow public money to go to religious schools by way of vouchers. In a historic way, the faucet was opened.
I predict we are about to demonstrate the truth of the second part of Mitchell’s wisdom. Turning off the faucet — or even reducing its flow? Despite Gov. Tony Evers’ proposals to crimp and eventually shrink school choice in Wisconsin, don’t bet on it.