Wisconsin GOP Lawmaker Argues Income Limits on School Vouchers 'Penalize Married Couples'

Wisconsin state legislators are in the final days of negotiations on a plan that would expand private school vouchers statewide (they are currently only available in Milwaukee and Racine). The current deal on the program would cap voucher enrollment at one percent of a districts students, but Gov. Scott Walker and other lawmakers would like to expand them further. That includes Republican state Sen. Glenn Grothman, who told Jack Craver of The Capital Times today that not allowing wealthy families who can already afford to send their children to private school to participate in the program would “penalize married couples.”

One of the major concerns in recent years about school vouchers is that they often benefit families who already have the money to send their kids to private schools.

At the same time, the Legislature expanded the state-paid voucher program to Racine. And now, data show that nearly half of the students receiving vouchers in that city were already enrolled in private schools before the program was put in place.

But Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, an outspoken advocate for expanding vouchers to all people and all school districts, says he believes there’s a good side to higher-income families participating in the program: It promotes marriage.

“I think the major thing is we cannot allow the voucher program to penalize married couples,” he told me in a brief phone conversation Monday morning. “In Milwaukee, we raised (the limit) to 300 percent of the federal poverty line and we began to get more married couples in the program, and I don’t want to back off on that.”

The veteran legislator is worried that current negotiations over a further expansion of vouchers to other districts may result in lower income thresholds for voucher recipients and thus reduce the number of two-parent families participating in the program.

Grothman is the same state senator who authored a bill last year to label single parenthood as “a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.”

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