Lawmakers take tour of schools involved in School Choice Program

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Some state lawmakers on Monday, May 13th took a tour of schools involved in the School Choice Program. This, as Gov. Scott Walker's budget calls for expanding the program into other school districts in the state.

Outside of Notre Dame Middle School on Milwaukee's south side, Francisco Limon waited for his granddaughter on Monday, May 13th. He is on disability and his granddaughter is able to go to the Catholic school using vouchers.

"It's a very good school. We use the School Choice Program, and that's very, very helpful for our families here," Limon said.

Gov. Scott Walker says that opportunity should be expanded to students across the state. Under Gov. Walker's plan, vouchers would be allowed in districts where at least two schools with 4,000 or more students have received a D or an F on a state report card.

"School choice works.  There's no doubt," Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said.

Vos led a contingent from the Capitol on a tour of four voucher schools, including Notre Dame Middle School.

"I think an awful lot of information that's out there is not based in fact, but based on a dislike for the program and what we're here to do is to make sure that the facts win the day, not the rhetoric from the other side," Vos said.

State Rep. Mandela Barnes was one of only two Democrats on the tour.

"I felt it was very important to take part in this because I have been very critical of the School Choice Program. My fight is strengthening public education. I'm a product of public education.  I deeply value public education.  Continuing to defund public education is going to be a problem, and it's a dangerous trend that we're going on statewide," Rep. Barnes said.

School Choice already exists in Milwaukee and Racine. Gov. Walker would expand it to nine other districts, including Waukesha, Kenosha and Sheboygan.

Limon says the program has helped his granddaughter. He hopes it can help other kids as well.

"It's a very good program and it's good to give this opportunity to another families in other cities," Limon said.

The School Choice measure will sail through the Assembly, but the state Senate is a bit trickier. It appears some Republicans still need to be persuaded that expansion is the right way to go -- so the plan that eventually passes could look very different from the one Gov. Walker proposed.