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Leaders join together to push for more quality education

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Politicians on Wednesday, January 30th set aside their differences and joined together to push for more quality education. 

"It was phenomenal to see all of those different entities coming together and playing nice in the same room at the same time," Nzinga Khalid, project manager with Great Schools in Milwaukee said.

Even bitter political rivals Gov. Scott Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett spoke from the same stage on Wednesday. Though the two disagree about expanding school choice, they both agree on the value of a good education.

"I'm here because these children are in school, and I want them to know that as the mayor, I want them to do well in school," Mayor Barrett said.

"I think that's something that transcends party lines, ideological beliefs.  I think that's a commonly held belief and the representation you have here today of many different elected and appointed officials is a good sign of that," Gov. Walker said.

The event was part of National School Choice Week -- promoting the voucher program that offers families government help to pay tuition if they choose to send their kids to private schools. That's where the disagreement comes.

"Obviously, we have differences. There has to be a focus first and foremost on making sure that our public schools are funded adequately because those are the schools that don't turn students away," Mayor Barrett said.

"We want to improve traditional public neighborhood schools, but in cases where there isn't improvement, we want to give those families an opportunity to provide an alternative," Gov. Walker said.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele's speech summed up the spirit of the day.

"It is a waste of time to spend energy arguing about whose team wins when the value that matters to kids is good schools," Abele said.

School choice is now available in Milwaukee and Racine. 

Gov. Walker says he will explore expanding it to other parts of the state. 

Mayor Barrett says that would be okay, only if it didn't syphon resources from the public school system.