Higher-income families in Wisconsin don’t need a government handout to send their children to private school.
They can afford to pay for the tuition themselves.
The Legislature should reject an Assembly Republican proposal to stick taxpayers with the bill.
The proposal, being floated as part of ongoing state budget negotiations, would give taxpayer-funded, private-school vouchers to families of four earning as much as $73,400 (or up to $80,400 if they are married).
Wisconsin’s median household income is about $53,400, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. So families earning tens of thousands of dollars more than most people could qualify for government vouchers, under the Assembly proposal. The current income limit for vouchers across most of the state is $45,263 for a family of four.
Handing government vouchers to higher-income families can’t be justified when the state is struggling to afford a modest increase in funding for public schools after years of tight spending limits.
The state Senate is right to oppose the Assembly’s misguided proposal. On Tuesday, Senate leaders proposed raising income limits for vouchers to about the state’s median income, which is still too generous but better than the Assembly’s giveaway.
Assembly advocates say more parents deserve the opportunity to choose the best school for their children. But those families already have that opportunity. They can simply use their own money for private tuition.
We know they can afford it because, in Milwaukee and Racine, where the Republican-run Legislature has already raised income limits, lots of parents who were paying for private schooling all along for their children gained access to government vouchers to cover the cost. They essentially received government help for something they already could do for themselves.
Wisconsin’s voucher school program is supposed to help poor families.
At least with its latest proposal, the Assembly would bar families from getting a voucher for a child who is already attending a private school. Yet parents who were planning to send their young children to private schools regardless of any financial assistance would still qualify for a government check.
That shouldn’t be a priority for limited public tax dollars.