Be skeptical, and be frugal

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SINCE THEN-GOV. Tommy Thompson instituted the school choice plan in Milwaukee 25 years ago, the Beloit Daily News has been supportive of private school vouchers.

Within limits.

By geographic area. By proven failures present in that locationís public schools. Means-tested for recipients. Limited costs for taxpayers. Accountability for voucher schools.

Wisconsin should be skeptical about abandoning that sensible school-choice model.

IN HIS BUDGET PROPOSAL Gov. Scott Walker wants to lift the cap off vouchers statewide (currently, itís 1,000 students), setting up unlimited expansion of the program.

That could also mean unlimited costs for taxpayers.

The current program was sold on the notion that parents were eager to move their children from public schools to private schools. Evidence to date suggests thatís not the case. The number of students applying to transfer from a public school to a private voucher school actually declined year over year, from 633 to 526. Perhaps more of an eyebrow-raiser, statewide more than 80 percent of those seeking vouchers already were at private schools. Less than 15 percent of applicants statewide come from public schools.

Some might consider that good, if the objective is to create two distinctly separate and parallel school systems with Wisconsin taxpayers footing the bill for both.

Somehow, though, we do not believe thatís what taxpayers want to do. State officials need to re-think this program.

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