Facts About Vouchers
In Milwaukee, attempts were made to expand the voucher program to include higher-income students. Some program supporters wanted to increase the voucher amount, as well. In April 2001, one Ohio State representative introduced a bill that would at least double the amount of the school voucher—a proposal that could double the cost of the entire program. At the same time, a state senator proposed to expand the program to 35 districts in so-called “academic emergency.” All students in these districts—regardless of income—would be eligible for vouchers, undermining claims that the program specifically targets low-income students.9
In 2001, Governor McCallum attempted to raise the income cap for voucher eligibility from 175% of the poverty rate to 185% of the poverty rate through his budget proposal for 2001-03, which would have allowed more families to take advantage of program benefits. The Governor also would have allowed voucher students to remain in the program even if their family income increased so that they no longer met the income eligibility requirements in later years.10
Milwaukee’s pro-voucher mayor, John Norquist, proposed in 1998 to lift the voucher program’s income cap altogether and open the door to middle-and upper-class families with children already in private schools, to the outrage of the bill’s sponsor.11 The official evaluator of the Milwaukee voucher program testified that the average Milwaukee private school household earns $17,000 more per year than its public school counterpart and concluded that the mayor’s proposal to lift the income cap was “the reverse of the intention of the original…”12 –that is, to aid poor families.