MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Vice President Mike Pence praised school choice for making the Wisconsin education system stronger.
He chose Wisconsin to tout National School Choice Week on Tuesday because the state is where the private school voucher program began under former Governor Tommy Thompson.
“I was for school choice before it was cool,” Pence said, during his visit to Madison. “I watched this movement grow over the last 30 years. I’ve seen firsthand the thousands of the promising young lives it touched in my home state of Indiana, and all across this country.”
Pence criticized a bill proposed by state Democratic lawmakers that would phase out school choice programs. He noted Governor Tony Evers was not present at the Capitol, but had a message for him.
“Let’s make sure he hears us, we’re not going to let that happen,” said Pence. “Wisconsin, for our kids for our families, for our future, school choice is here to stay.
Pence’s Madison visit came came two weeks after he was with President Donald Trump for a campaign rally in Milwaukee.
Hundreds of voucher school students across Wisconsin attended the Wisconsin School Choice Student Showcase. State lawmakers along with U.S. Representative Bryan Steil and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Pence and DeVos promoted a new tax credit program that would provide $5 billion towards private school scholarships and tuition for any type of education parents want for their children.
“The time for education freedom scholarships is now,” said Pence. “It will build on the progress that you’ve made, right here in Wisconsin. For the past 30 years, Wisconsin has shown again and again, that when parents are given the opportunity to choose the best school for their children, whether that is public, private, parochial, Christian, or home school, outcomes improve, kids do better and education improves for everyone.”
Protesters were on the first floor of the Capitol, voicing their opinions against school choice by chanting “shame” or booing speakers during the showcase.
The vice president’s appearance in the Wisconsin Capitol marked the first time a sitting vice president held an event inside the building.
According to records from Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the total number of students and state aid payments for school choice programs have increased in the past four years.
- 2016-17 school year: 61,456 student enrolled, $246,594,168.30 in state aid payments
- 2017-18 school year: 65,698 students enrolled, $273,787,048.45 in state aid payments
- 2018-19 school year: 72,127 students enrolled, $311,154,658.37 in state aid payments
- 2019-20 school year: 76,584 students enrolled, $351,180,390.29 in state aid payments
DPI records show the total student enrollment in public schools for the 208-19 school year was 858, 833 students. Total state aid for schools was $5.63 billion.