By Steve Gunn

MILWAUKEE – Republicans are usually big supporters of private school voucher programs, while the general public has always been lukewarm on the idea.

surveysaysBut the two sides have flip-flopped in Wisconsin, with key Republican lawmakers opposing a bill that would expand the state’s school voucher program, and a new poll showing that 51 percent of respondents want some type of significant expansion.

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Gov. Scott Walker has proposed a major expansion of the state’s parental choice program, which currently provides state vouchers for lower-income children in Milwaukee and Racine to attend private schools.

Under Walker’s proposal, students in any school district with at least 4,000 students and at least two failing schools would also qualify for the program. Under those criteria, nine more districts would qualify in the next school year.

Ironically, recent media reports suggest that many of Walker’s fellow Republicans in the state Senate oppose the expansion plan in its current form. Two GOP Senate leaders have suggested leaving the option up to voters in each individual school district.

Republicans have a narrow majority in the Senate, and would probably have to remain nearly united to pass Walker’s proposal.

The public clearly wouldn’t mind if they did just that.

The results of a new poll conducted by Marquette University show that 51 percent of respondents across the state support some type of expansion of the voucher program. Thirty-seven percent favor a general statewide expansion while another 14 percent favor expansion to large school districts with some failing schools.

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Fourteen percent of respondents would not expand the program while 28 percent would end it.

Before they decide to kill Gov. Walker’s proposal, or water it down significantly, perhaps the Senate Republicans should carefully read the poll results and reconsider their positions.

School choice exists to benefit people and the people apparently want more of it. Shouldn’t the legislature give them what they want?