MADISON - Just one day after Gov. Scott Walker unveiled his budget, some of his fellow Republicans are planning to make some changes to it, specifically on the most controversial piece of the budget: the expansion of school choice.
"How it stands as he proposed will not be how it gets done," said State Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, who chairs the chairman of the Senate Education Committee.
When asked what he would like to see changed, Olsen replied, "Pretty much everything."
Under the governor's plan, districts with at least 4,000 students would be eligible for vouchers if the district has at least two schools that received a D or an F on the state report card. Based on the latest state grades, nine districts in the state would qualify.
"The voucher program is absolutely a disaster as presented by the governor," said State Sen. Mike Ellis, R-Neenah. He doesn't like how under the governor's plan, once a district qualifies for vouchers, the program would be open to children at all schools in that district, not just those at the failing schools.
Ellis also wants to give public schools more time to improve.
"I could live a two-year window where we could say to the board of education you've got two years to get your grades up because these children don't deserve to be cheated. At the end of two years, if they're still being cheated, then they can go to a private school. I don't have a problem with that. But I do have a problem with just opening the flood gates," Ellis said.
"We do not want to see voucher expansion," said State Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay. He's excited to hear Republican senators want to change the governor's plan.
"People who have been friends of his are being rewarded and people who tried not to have him elected and recalled are being punished," Hansen said.
The possible expansion of the school voucher program isn't the only area of the governor's budget that's expected to spark some debate. Some lawmakers are also concerned about the amount of money the governor is proposing to borrow to build roads.
Of the $824 million in new spending for transportation, the state would borrow at least $300 million under the governor's plan.
"I think our caucus has a lot of concern about that," said State Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, a co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee.
"With the bonding, it's a temporary solution," Nygren said. "Borrowing is very inexpensive right now so we can understand why we're choosing that direction but I do believe it's our job to talk about potential solutions."
Now that the governor has released his budget, the Senate and Assembly will, in turn, consider it and approve a common version before it goes back to the governor for his signature.
The new budget begins July 1.
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