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Green Bay School District leaders respond to private school voucher expansion

GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ) - Green Bay Area Public School officials are lashing out at Republican lawmakers for approving a statewide expansion of the private school voucher program.

"It truly was government of, by and for special interests," says Green Bay School Board Trustee Mike Blecha, who was in Madison for the Joint Finance Committee meetings. "So one of the most significant public policy changes affecting public education in its history, was written and discussed entirely in secret."

During a media conference Wednesday, Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld opened with a statement of the districts' continue opposition to the expansion and funding of the program at the expense of the public school system.

"We continue to question how the expansion of the 20-year-old failed Milwaukee voucher program will help to better educate the children of Green Bay and the state of Wisconsin," says Langenfeld. "We're also worried about the fiscal impact, and the ability to afford or not afford a two-tier system and where that will take us into the future."

On a 12-4 party line vote earlier that morning, the finance committee approved the plan which would allow 500 choice students the first year and 1,000 students the second year. The plan also increases per pupil funding in school districts by $150 over each of the next two years.

Leaders also expressed concern over the lack of accountability the private schools involved in the program will face.

Another issue was the per pupil funding, which district Chief Financial Officer Alan Wagner said would mean an additional $3 million in revenues. That, Wagner said, still leaves the district with a $2 million shortfall.

Langenfeld went on to say that they will continue to, "stay the course" when it comes to working with lawmakers to try and have the voucher program taken out of the biennial budget.