Caledonia Patch will be continuing to get reaction from the community about their feelings on the Joint Finance Committee’s decision to extend the school voucher program to Racine Unified.
Here’s a wrap up of what we’ve discovered so far.
These officials have good reason to sound the alarm. Milwaukee Public School administrators have explained, albeit anonymously, how state aid cuts are killing even successful programs in the district. Officials with MPS have said the voucher system cost the school district $55.6 million last year because 8,042 children did not attend MPS Schools. Still, Legislators often call MPS a failing school district because of low scores on standardized tests and dismal graduation rates. Despite these criticisms, Newsweek listed two of the district’s high schools as being top in the state last year.
Dr. Howard Fuller, a former superintendent of MPS and a pioneer of the school voucher system said he supported the Joint Finance Committee’s decision, but reiterated the need for oversight and the need for students to take the same standardized tests that public schools do. Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) loves the plan while Rep. Robert Turner (D-Racine) says he’ll vote against it.
Overall though, parents responding to stories on Caledonia Patch either loved or hated the idea.
As a parent of an incoming freshman, I cannot tell you how thrilled I am about this! Unless you have children in the RUSD system, you have no idea how challenging it is.
Karen Hermansen said:
Public schools have to educate ALL children, not only the children who come to school fed, clean, nurtured by their parents and ready to learn, but the children who are hungry, dirty, unloved, abused and angry. Will private schools accept the children who hit, swear at their teachers and refuse to behave themselves?
But with all of this debate going on, the voucher system would depend on participation from private schools.
Some private schools might have space issues even if they opt to become a choice school.
Pastor David Wierschke, of Trinity Lutheran School in Caledonia, said their school currently has 118 students, but has the capacity to have 130 students.
“We still have questions about how this would work,” he said.
Wm. Mark H. Murphy, headmaster at Prairie School, said they are remaining neutral on the subject until they find out more about the program and the rules DPI would set.
“We’re sensitive about any government oversight,” Murphy said. “We’re protective and picky. We even pay realty taxes on our property so that we’re never beholden to state and local oversight. We’re an independent school.
The school doesn’t accept children through a lottery system. Students are chosen based on their previous academic experience, entrance tests and a school-based decision making process, Murphy said.
“We set our own curriculum, and we hire own teachers,” Murphy said. “We don’t want anything to compromise that independence.”