The school choice movement could be heading toward a critical juncture for one of its biggest champions. Last week, Howard Fuller made clear his distaste for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to remove the income restrictions to the Milwaukee voucher program, and he says in this redefinED podcast that he’ll offer no support to efforts in other states that fail to means-test their own voucher or tax-credit plans.
“I will continue to fight for vouchers, tax credit scholarships, opportunity scholarship programs, charter schools, home schools, virtual schools — anything that empowers low-income and working-class people to be able to have some of the capacity to choose what those of us with money have,” said Fuller, the former superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools and founder of the Black Alliance for Educational Options. “I will never fight for giving people who already have means more resources. Because, in the end, that will disadvantage and squeeze out the possibility of poor parents having some of these options.”
This is not to say that Fuller won’t consider raising the income threshold to serve more of Milwaukee’s working poor. In the interview, he talks about aligning the requirements for entry into the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program with those of Wisconsin’s BadgerCare program, which provides health care to state residents who earn less than 300 percent of poverty. “That would capture over 80 percent of the households in the city,” he said. “So if your real objective is to expand the level of support, you could do that and still retain a focus on low-income and moderate-income families.”
But if Wisconsin and other states want to make their vouchers universally accessible to families of any income level, “it may very well be that it’s time for people like me to get off the stage,” he said. “Maybe it has to be a different movement going forward, but if that’s the way the movement has to be going forward, it’s not something that I can be a part of.”