These changes bring the scholarships to 73% of per-pupil union school funding from about 61%, according to the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL). It’s the biggest school-choice advance in the state in years. Charter schools also get a per-pupil boost of $1,727 to $10,991. A voucher program for special needs students increases by about $1,600 to $14,671 per student. A proposal at play in the Legislature’s budget negotiations could increase the voucher and charter amounts hundreds of dollars more.
Based on a survey of school leaders with School Choice Wisconsin last year, WILL estimates that at least 18,000—and likely thousands more—voucher seats could be created thanks to the larger scholarships. At least one private high school in Milwaukee that closed last year cited “inadequate” state funds as a factor. Some high school leaders interviewed by School Choice Wisconsin said their schools’ viability was in doubt without an increase in the voucher amount.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has been hostile to school choice, including attempting to freeze enrollment at schools that take the vouchers. But he signed the bill last week, and part of the deal is $1 billion in additional funding for union-run schools. Two Democrats in each chamber also voted for the bill.