Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker today has signed the legislation that reaffirms Wisconsin’s commitment to providing quality educational options to low-income students by enacting legislation that clarifies school choice language included in the state’s 2011-13 budget and increases accountability in the Milwaukee and Racine Parental Choice Programs.

The bill clarifies provisions for school choice programs and increases accountability.

The American Federation for Children–the nation’s voice for school choice–applauds the bipartisan coalition of legislators who introduced Senate Bill 234, which passed the Assembly on a 65-27 bipartisan vote. The bill, which was authored by Democratic Representatives Jason Fields, Elizabeth Coggs, and Leon Young and Republican Senators Leah Vukmir, Alberta Darling, and Luther Olsen, passed the Senate on a voice vote last week.

Governor Walker and the Wisconsin legislature have acted in a bipartisan manner to put the needs of children first.” – Betsy DeVos American Federation for Children

We’re grateful to Wisconsin legislators for passing legislation that expands high quality educational options for disadvantaged students in Milwaukee and Racine.”

Senate Bill 234 includes the once in, always in provision–an initiative championed by Representative Fields of Milwaukee–that allows choice students to remain in the program regardless of the parents’ future income growth as of this year.

School administrators will have access to the Department of Revenue’s income verification system to determine quickly whether a potential student meets the income eligibility requirements of the program.

The bill also includes a “bad actor” clause that prevents officials of schools that have been removed from the Milwaukee or Racine Parental Choice Program from working in or opening a school in either program for seven years.

The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program–the longest running school choice program in the country–served 20,189 students in the 2010-11 school year. Had Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) graduation rates equaled those for Milwaukee Parental Choice Program students in the classes of 2003 through 2009, the number of MPS graduates would have been about 18 percent higher.

The Racine Parental Choice Program was created in the 2011-13 biennial budget that was signed into law in June. The program, which provides scholarships for students living in the Racine Unified School District, is capped at 250 students this year, 500 students next year, and no enrollment cap beginning in the program’s third year.