Those who favor private learning options for poor children can count few champions for their cause more passionate than Howard Fuller, who is almost singularly responsible for the success of Milwaukee’s voucher program, the nation’s oldest. That’s why we should take seriously Fuller’s heartburn over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to remove the income restrictions to the voucher and open the Parental Choice Program to wealthier families.
If Walker is successful, Fuller told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel yesterday, “that’s when I get off the train,” and further called Walker’s proposal “egregious” and “outrageous” during testimony of Wisconsin’s legislative Joint Finance Committee.
The point Fuller is making is one that too often gets lost in the debate over education reform generally and vouchers specifically: Programs such as Milwaukee’s began with the sense that families of wealthier means already had options beyond the neighborhood public school, and that poor families might benefit from public policies that empowered them to find the best fit for their children. And that sense still pervades current means-tested efforts such as Florida’s tax credit scholarship and the pending measures in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Any movement in education reform is larger than one person, but let’s not dismiss the jaw-dropping implications of Fuller’s alarm. State legislatures may feel momentum toward greater school choice and choice advocates may be emboldened by the U.S. Supreme Court’s move to legally insulate an Arizona tax credit scholarship, but Fuller would have us remember who needs our greatest help.