MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)-- During his visit to Madison on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence gave a shout out to a local private school for their work with choice students.
Students gathered at the State Capitol Building during Vice President Pence's visit including those from Madison's Lighthouse Christian School. (Source: WMTV)
Pence was in Wisconsin’s capital city in part to voice his support for private school vouchers. Wisconsin was the first state to have a private school voucher program.
The Vice President told students and school choice advocates at the State Capitol building Tuesday afternoon that Madison's Lighthouse Christian School is giving many students a chance to shine.
Parents and teachers tell NBC15 News that the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program sets their kids up for a brighter future.
"My passion is empowering parents to be in charge of their children’s education,” says Tia Sierra, the principal of Lighthouse Christian School.
Sierra says this goes for all families in the program, especially minority families.
“They have felt like in the bigger system, their voice isn't heard, and their desires are not being met,” she says.
Those families are one of the reasons vice president Pence came to Madison.
"Thirty years ago, [Former Wisconsin] Gov. Tommy Thompson made history by creating the first school choice program in America. [Former Wisconsin] Gov. Scott Walker built on that progress when he expanded that program statewide,” Pence said at the Capitol.
Now, more than 40,000 students are enrolled in choice programs in more than 350 schools across Wisconsin.
“The President and I are now working with the Secretary of Education [Betsy DeVos] and the many champions here, to create a new program to provide more than $5 billion in school choice programs across America,” Pence said.
The current government funding goes towards schools like Lighthouse Christian. Right now, 112 out of their 187 students are on the Wisconsin Parental Choice program.
"It's almost like we've been telling them for years, ‘you guys are the greatest kids in Madison, you're going to go places and achieve great things,' and so this is kind of the fulfillment of that,” Sierra added.
Sierra says all kids around the country to share what her students have experienced.
“So I am so pleased to hear that they are fighting for, expanding, programs across the nation. It's worked so well for us, I just hope other schools get a chance to do it,” she says.
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.