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Pence visit touts school choice, Wisconsin’s voucher program

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Vice President Mike Pence touted the success of Wisconsin’s school choice program during a visit to the state capitol Tuesday.

Pence’s remarks occurred during a celebration of National School Choice Week, a voucher program that allows students to attend private schools through state grants. Pence said he chose to speak in Wisconsin as it was the first state in the nation to create one.

“I'm here in Wisconsin because this is where it all began,” he said.

Thirty years ago Wisconsin enacted school choice in Milwaukee, now it's offered throughout the state. The vice president said it should be a parent's choice on where to send their children to school, advocating for options other than public school. 

“Kids get better grades, graduation rates are better, but every child no matter where they go to school does better when the parents get to choose," said Pence.

About two dozen protesters booed during parts of Pence’s speech and chants of “shame” filled the rotunda when U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke at the podium. The issue of school choice has divided lawmakers for years.

Supports say it offers opportunities for students to receive a better education if their local school is not performing well. Opponents say funding the program takes millions away from the public education system.

Governor Tony Evers proposed freezing or rolling back enrollment requirements for the school voucher program in his state budget, but Republicans removed it.

Evers argued the state should instead fully fund public schools to provide better outcomes for all students, not just those enrolled in school choice. 

Pense took aim at Evers during his speech for his attempts to scale back the program.

"I know the governor couldn't be with us here today so let's make sure he hears us, we're not going to let that happen," said Pence.

On the same day of the VP’s visit Rep. Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee) introduced a bill that would phase out vouchers in the state.

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Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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