The 2003 Legislature passed ten bills involving school choice and charter programs in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, Governor Doyle vetoed eight of the ten bills. Descriptions of each bill and its vote tally are listed in the “Summary of 2003-04 School Choice Bills” below. The language of each bill is available in the PDFs that follow.
Assembly Bill 472 called for increasing the income limit for participation in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). Currently, families must have an income of 175 percent of the federal poverty level or less to participate. This bill lifted the limit to 220 percent of the federal poverty level. It was vetoed by Gov. Doyle.
MPCP Program Operation
Two other bills – AB 259 and AB 260 – addressed specific problems that threaten the effective operation of the MPCP. See “Challenges to Choice & Charter Families” (see PDF below).
Among other things, AB 259 lifted the arbitrary cap on the program, set at 15% of Milwaukee Public Schools enrollment. AB 260 attempted to increase high school spaces for MPCP students by allowing Milwaukee County private schools to participate in the MPCP. Both bills were vetoed by Gov. Doyle.
Four bills addressed inequities faced by indpendent charter schools, which are sponsored by entities other than local school districts. State statutes, in some cases, treat this type of charter school differently than other charter schools in the state.
AB 261 removed student eligibility barries and allowed transportation aid for independent charters. AB 746 also attempted to remove student eligibility barriers that do not apply to other charter schools in the state. AB 503 increased the enrollment cap at a Racine charter school. Gov. Doyle vetoed all three bills.
AB 747 exempted 51 students at Woodlands School from the eligibility barriers faced by independent charter schools. Gov. Doyle signed this bill into law on March 16, 2004.
Another bill, AB 126, directed the Legislative Audit Bureau to conduct an independent, longitudinal study of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). The legislature approved this bill on bipartisan votes. Gov. Doyle vetoed it.
Two other bills also attempted to strengthen accountability of MPCP schools. AB 836 required background checks of all MPCP employees and allowed individual schools the decision to hire or terminate based on this information. AB 847 provided DPI with the fiscal accountability tools needed to exercise the authority to shut down schools that fail to comply with the law. Gov. Doyle vetoed AB 836 but signed AB 847 into law on March 16, 2004.