Thursday, April 28, 2011

Keep intact the mission of choice program

The indomitable, incomparable Howard Fuller, who was a key person in bringing the nation's first voucher program to Milwaukee, with a powerful op ed on why he opposes Gov. Scott Walker's plan to make vouchers universal (meaning available to rich people too).  He's exactly right: vouchers/tax-credit programs need to be carefully targeted to low and moderate income families who don't have school choice currently:

It was not easy for me to stand before the state Legislature's Joint Finance Committee and threaten to withdraw my support from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which I have supported for more than 20 years. But if lawmakers approve Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to lift the income requirement that has maintained the program for children from low-income families, that is exactly what I will do.

The governor's plan would dramatically change the program's social justice mission and destroy its trailblazing legacy as the first and still one of the few in the nation that uses public dollars to help equalize the academic options for children from low-income and working-class families. I did not join this movement to subsidize families like mine, which may not be rich but have resources and, thus, options.

When I got into this battle in 1989, standardized test scores showed Milwaukee was failing to educate poor black children. That's when state Rep. Annette Polly Williams courageously stepped forth to make sure that poor families were afforded some opportunity to choose schools in the private sector for their children. She shepherded the pioneering voucher program through the Legislature.

Since then, I, along with many others, have fought tirelessly for parental choice for low-income families throughout the nation. The governor's plan would turn Milwaukee's program into something it was never designed to be.


Keep intact the mission of choice program

By Howard Fuller

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