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Republicans say voucher proposal likely to change

5:34 PM, Mar. 6, 2013  |  Comments
Karen Quick reads a book during reading time inside Jessica Boettcher's second grade class at St. Thomas More School in Green Bay on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. Under Gov. Scott Walkers' budget proposal, students could use public money to help pay for private or parochial schools. Photo by Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media
Karen Quick reads a book during reading time inside Jessica Boettcher's second grade class at St. Thomas More School in Green Bay on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. Under Gov. Scott Walkers' budget proposal, students could use public money to help pay for private or parochial schools. Photo by Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media
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Green Bay school officials are pleased that several Republican state senators want to take expansion of the school voucher program out of a proposed two-year budget.

Gov. Scott Walker's 2013-15 budget proposal calls for the school voucher program to expand to nine districts that have at least two failing schools under new statewide report cards, including Green Bay. The voucher program provides public funds for families who send children to private or faith-based schools. The program exists in Milwaukee County and Racine.

Walker's plan faces enough opposition among Republican senators that it will be changed, Sen. Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, told Press-Gazette Media Wednesday.

Republicans control the Senate 18-15.

"There are seven or eight senators who don't want it in the budget, and there are five or six who are against the program, period," Ellis said. He did not name the senators, and said they have met with the governor's office to discuss compromise.

Walker's expansion includes only districts of at least 4,000 students that have at least two school buildings that got a D or F grade under new report cards released in the fall by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

"The way the voucher proposal is written now, even if students attend non-failing schools, and the family meets income requirements, they'd be allowed to transfer. Also, we've only had the report cards for a year."

Green Bay School Board President Brenda Warren praised the call.

"One of the things we've been hoping for is to have a conversation with the community," she said. "A lot of things in the budget plan have the potential to be devastating for public education. I'm glad to hear they're willing to have the conversations.

"As it stands now, the voucher program is going to be very challenging for schools to remain strong. Very challenging for neighborhood schools to remain strong."

- pzarling@pressgazettemedia.com or follow her on Twitter @PGPattiZarling

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