By: Collin Roth
July 20, 2015
The U.S. Senate came to Milwaukee Monday as Sen. Ron Johnson chaired a field hearing of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on the school choice program.
“A child’s future should not be pre-determined by ZIP code or by a lottery to get into one of a few good schools,” said Johnson. “Every child should have access to a quality education.”
The Senate hearing included testimony from two graduates of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP), school administrators Brother Bob Smith and Henry Tyson, school choice researcher Dr. John Witte, and Richard Komer of the Institute of Justice.
Testimony focused primarily on the importance of choice and quality education options for parents and students, particularly in urban communities. An overwhelming theme of the student and administrator testimony focused on the ability of all children to learn and compete.
“Poor kids have the ability to create dreams that will lead this city, this state, this country, and the world. All they need is a chance,” said Brother Bob Smith.
Even with fewer resources, school choice in Milwauk
ee continues to educate many children from low-income households, including students with disabilites or special needs.
“Urban education is extremely challenging. And we’re being asked to educate children at about 70% of the dollars,” said Tyson.
Nevertheless, due to quality, safe schools demand remains high for education options in Milwaukee.
“No matter what studies say, there is a strong case to be made that parents and students are seeking education options in Wisconsin. There is a strong demand and it outstrips the supply,” said Sen. Johnson.
To make the point, Henry Tyson described a waiting list of 300 to get into St. Marcus.
The Washington D.C. voucher program is up for reauthorization this Fall and Republicans in Congress will play a critical role in the continuation of the program. Johnson also focused on a long-running federal Department of Justice investigation of the Wisconsin and Louisiana school choice programs.