National School Choice Week – WI continues to lead

January 23-29 marks National School Choice week, “the world’s largest celebration of opportunity in education,” according to National School Choice Week (NSCW). Hundreds of schools will spend the week celebrating choice in education. Wisconsin is one of the nation’s leaders in school choice – but we need to work to keep it that way.

Defending school choice in our state is vital to both Wisconsin families and the nation at large. Many public schools have become corrupt and untrustworthy as Critical Race Theory infiltrates the classroom, stories emerge of activist teaching, and some schools shut down due to COVID again and again. Further, many teachers do not respect parental rights and even hide information from parents. Many parents are eager to pull their children out of public school and look for alternative options.

NSCW recently conducted a survey showing that parents are unhappy with the schools that their children currently attend. More than half of parents said they had considered or are considering alternative schooling options for their children. Further, 84.7% agreed that parents must be able to send their children to the schools that best meet their needs, including “traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, online public schools, private schools, and homeschooling.”

Happily, in Wisconsin, parents have reasonable options for the education of their children. Within the public school world, parents can choose the school in the district where they live, or they can opt for open enrollment and enroll in a school in a different district, with some exceptions. Still under the public school umbrella are charter schools and virtual charter schools.

Moving from public schools to private schools, Wisconsin offers the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the Racine Parental Choice Program and the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program—all of which are part of what most people call the “voucher school” option. These programs allow income-qualified families to send their children to private schools participating in Choice (voucher) Programs. Parents can apply to be part of a school choice program. Registration begins in February for Wisconsin’s Choice Programs. Of particular note is that at least one school in the Choice Program, Academy of Excellent, now offers a virtual option for parents that qualify for the vouchers.

Wisconsin also has some of the best homeschooling laws in the country. Parents are encouraged to homeschool and are not burdened by overbearing restrictions as they are in some states.

While Wisconsin is leading the nation in educational opportunities, we have more to do. We need universal choice in Wisconsin. Incomes and zip codes should not determine who gets to take advantage of our educational options. Our current governor is no fan of school choice, believing the only good school is a public school. Until we change our governor, we won’t have any expansion in school choice.

This is an issue that should concern more than just parents, but our entire community. Education holds immense power. It shapes our children, thereby molding the future of our country. In many schools across the country, however, the responsibility of educating our children has been put in the wrong hands. Ultimately, it is the parents’ right and duty to educate their children. It’s also a God-given responsibility; we must be vigilant stewards of our children and their education. Wisconsin Family Action will continue to champion school choice to ensure that should one educational option fail a child, his or her parents can responsibly choose another schooling option.

NSCW’s website offers a variety of resources that teachers, parents, and organizations can use to promote and support school choice. SchoolChoiceWi.org is also a fantastic resource for parents in Wisconsin exploring alternative schooling options.

We encourage everyone to use this week as an opportunity to share this important information about school choice in Wisconsin with your family and friends, and let’s resolve to be even better stewards of our children’s and grandchildren’s education.

WI Supreme Court: Gender Identity Policy and Parental Rights

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is set to hear a case involving parental rights and challenging the gender identity policy in Madison schools. Our good friends at Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) and our excellent national partner Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit on behalf of a group of parents challenging the Madison Metropolitan School District’s (MMSD) published policy that basically says parents aren’t to know what their child is doing at school when it comes to gender identity. The policy goes so far as to indicate school personnel should lie to parents if necessary. This is simply outrageous.

The state’s high court will review  the partial injunction the circuit court put on the implementation of the policy and will determine the degree to which the parents can remain anonymous. As you can imagine, anonymity is critical in a case of this nature.

Meanwhile, WILL and ADF also has sued the Kettle Moraine School District (KMSD) for a very similar reason. KMSD’s gender identity policy allows children to “change” their gender identity at school without parental consent. The policy also prohibits district employees from notifying parents of their child’s transition and even instructs staff to override a parent’s objection. In this case, at least one parent called and asked the school to call a daughter by her given feminine name and to use only feminine pronouns. The school refused. Amazing. By the way, this case started with this parent calling us and asking what she could do. We immediately put her in touch with WILL.

In the Madison School District case, a Dane County Circuit Court Judge issued a partial injunction that prohibits the district from requiring staff to hide information from parents or answer untruthfully to their questions. However, the injunction still allows minors to change their gender identity at school without parental consent. Now, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will soon hear this case and determine whether the judge’s injunction goes far enough and to what degree the parents bringing the lawsuit can remain anonymous.

Both MMSD and KMSD (and we are sure many, many other WI school districts) are encouraging educators—who know their students much less than those students’ parents do—

to push children to make a life-altering decision without the input of those who care for them most. The district is even disregarding medical professionals who warn of the long-term effects associated with transitioning at a young age. It’s clear that the district is prioritizing ideology over parental rights and children’s well-being.

“Parents’ rights to direct the upbringing, education, and mental health treatment of their children is one of the most basic constitutional rights every parent holds dear. Yet we are seeing more and more school districts across the country not only ignoring parents’ concerns, but actively working against them,” said director of the ADF Center for Parental Rights Kate Anderson.

She is absolutely right. The Constitution protects parents’ rights, especially with something as serious as a child’s gender identity, and we must demand that schools respect that right.

Parents are not only the primary stakeholders in their children’s education, they must be the primary decision makers for their children. Not only is it their right, but only they know what is best for their children. Schools across the country, however, are intent on sidestepping parents and “raising” children themselves. This means students are being indoctrinated with dangerous progressive ideology and encouraged to act in accordance with it.

We cannot afford to let our school districts get away with these harmful policies and power grabs. The development and well-being of our children is at stake. As we now know, administrators are willing to partake in deception and manipulation to control our children.

What Parents Should Do (and all concerned citizens!)

    1. Have age-appropriate conversations with their children about the boundaries their school educators and administrators should abide by and encourage them to speak up in the face of indoctrination. Be a safe place for their children; encourage them to talk to the parents about what is happening at school.
    2. Engage in the upcoming spring elections. Every school district in the state will have races on the ballot. Sample ballots and other election information should be available in the next week at wi.gov. At a minimum, find out who the conservative candidates are and be sure to vote for them—and encourage others to do the same.
    3. Explore Wisconsin’s multiple educational options for parents. https://dpi.wi.gov/families-students/programs-initiatives/school-choice. Application window opens in February for several of these options.
    4. Please pray that these cases (MMSD & KMSD) are decided justly, and that further legislation is introduced to protect parental rights.

Together, we can save our children. Thank you for partnering with us in this worthy endeavor!

Parents Have Every Right To Be Mad

Parents have faced disgraceful backlash from our own government leaders for doing their duty and standing up for their children. Last year, the NSBA likened parents to “domestic terrorists” after they spoke out against problems like Critical Race Theory (CRT) infiltrating schools. While the NSBA’s letter was alarming by itself, a newly released email reveals that Education Secretary Miguel Cardona actually solicited this letter from the NSBA. Many parents are now doubly disturbed – and rightfully so.

Parents have awakened to the corruption in our education system, and they are fighting back. Progressive activism in the Badger State is being countered by rational parents who are just sticking up for their kids.

Kylee Zempel, writing for The Federalist, reported earlier this week on a recent town hall meeting in Wisconsin attended by many upset parents. Topics discussed included Critical Race Theory (CRT), leftist teaching, school closures, and mask mandates. The meeting was organized by Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who is running against Democrat Gov. Tony Evers this fall. Kleefisch told those in attendance that they must become activists and combat the liberal insanity that is controlling our schools and influencing our children.

Many parents have painfully watched their children suffer while their schools refused to do in-person instruction for long periods of time. Students had a horrible year academically in 2020-21. Many struggled with virtual learning and fell behind. They also suffered socially and emotionally. Even after schools reopened, many healthy students were required to stay home and quarantine for up to ten days after being exposed, often without any at-home instruction. These lockdowns and quarantines ultimately did more harm than good, and now parents are fed up.

After watching their children’s GPA plummet during the lockdowns, some parents have decided to remove their children from the public school system entirely. Couple this with parents being upset by finding inappropriate materials in both physical and digital school libraries, boys being allowed in the girls’ bathrooms, and ideas such as CRT being taught, and you have parents looking for alternatives and making decisions to make a difference in their own school districts.

Here are three things you can do to make a difference in all this.

1. Get involved in the elections. Our spring nonpartisan elections are right around the corner. The primary is February 15 and the general April 5. This is when we elect school board members. Find out who the conservative candidates are in your district. Help them get elected. Call and find out what they need, and then step up and get busy. Encourage others to join you. Build an effective local army!

By Tuesday, January 25, you can find out who is on your ballot HERE. But don’t wait that long. Check with your municipal clerk right away. Check with friends and neighbors who stay up on local politics. Because these elections are typically low-voter-turnout elections, even just a little help can put a candidate over the finish line. Be part of the solution in your own backyard!

2. Consider educational options. The window for applying for and registering for one of our state’s educational options opens in February. If you have children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews in schools that are failing in any way, consider the options carefully, including vouchers, home-schooling and more. . You can find information about all the options, along with application materials and deadlines, HERE.

3. Pray for wisdom. Ask God what He wants you to do to make a difference. Pray for the good candidates running. Pray for the protection of students.

Parents and concerned citizens have a right to be angry about what has happened and is continuing to happen to our children in government schools. But that anger needs to be channeled and needs to be productive. Now is the time to make a real and a positive difference—for the children.

Wisconsin Family Action stands ready to help in any way we can. Call us at 888-378-7395 or email us at info@wifamilyaction.org.

One of the Ways WFA is Defending Religious Freedom

National Religious Freedom Day is this Sunday, January 16th. This day was established to celebrate our ability to freely exercise our religious liberty since our country’s inception. Unfortunately, this freedom is now under attack in America, even from our own government. Between tyrannical vaccine mandates and other discriminatory practices, our rights have been severely compromised. We are hopeful, however, that the US Supreme Court will make sound decisions in a couple of critical religious freedom cases.   

Ironically, just two days after National Religious Freedom Day, on January 18, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Shurtleff v. Boston. The question at hand is whether the City of Boston violated a Christian organization’s right to free speech by disallowing Camp Constitution to temporarily raise its flag on the City Hall flagpoles. The City had previously allowed private organizations to raise 284 flags. The Commissioner of Boston’s Property Management Department claimed that the City’s policy was to avoid flying religious flags in adherence to the First Amendment’s prohibition of government-established religion. Religious freedom, however, was never meant to be interpreted as shielding the public from any mention of religion.

Generally, the government is supposed to be viewpoint neutral, which means if the flag represents the speech of Camp Constitution, then the Camp and religious freedom should prevail. If the court determines that the flags on the flagpole represent the City of Boston’s speech, then the outcome may be different. We are hopeful the Court will recognize and uphold Camp Constitution’s right to free speech. 

Wisconsin Family Action is actively fighting for religious liberty. Just last week, we signed onto an amicus brief filed to the US Supreme Court with regard to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) nationwide vaccine mandate. The brief states that unelected administrative agencies such as OSHA tend to neglect religious freedom by viewing it as “an afterthought, an inconvenience that stands in the way of their desired policy.” Religious liberty is foundational to our nation – not an afterthought.

Further, the brief notes that OSHA bypassed the traditional lawmaking process through state legislatures. Unaccountable government agencies circumvent legislatures too often, as OSHA has done here. Ultimately, OSHA’s mandate causes “indirect coercion [that] contradicts fundamental religious autonomy principles.” The Court heard oral arguments for this case this past Friday, January 7th, and we are now awaiting their decision. 

Religious freedom must be non-negotiable. This right is a bedrock of our country and a necessity for human flourishing. On Religious Freedom Sunday, let’s pray for the preservation of this essential right in the United States. Putting our prayer and faith to action, we must also continue doing everything we can in the culture and in every level of government to stand up, show up, and speak up for our “First Freedom.”

SB 250: Concerns, Why WFA Opposes

Senate Bill 250 is making some headlines in Wisconsin with some very enthusiastic supporters, but a significant level of caution is warranted for this piece of legislation. 

SB 250 (and its Assembly companion AB 244) seeks to radically alter the election process for members of Congress and U.S. Senators in Wisconsin. It would ultimately make it more difficult for conservative candidates to win elections in our state. Additionally, it would shift the focus during elections from issues to money and name recognition, which often results in less qualified candidates taking office. A public hearing for the bill was held just before Christmas, but the Senate Committee on Elections has not yet voted on the bill. The Assembly hasn’t taken any action to date on the proposal.

This bill removes the partisan primaries for Congress and the U.S. Senate and replaces them with an open primary. Currently in Wisconsin, we have partisan primaries, meaning each party gets a chance to select one candidate for the general election. In this new proposed system, however, every candidate running for office would be in the same pool, and the top five vote earners would move on to the general election. That means that multiple Republicans and Democrats could, and certainly would, land on the final ballot in November.

The bill also implements something called “Final Five voting” in the general election. On election day, under this bill, voters would be asked to rank their choices for Congress and U.S. Senate from their first choice to their fifth (but ranking all five is not required). After the votes are counted, if no candidate has over 50% of the vote, whoever has the fewest votes would be removed. Votes that had gone to the eliminated candidate would then go to a given voter’s second choice candidate. If there is still no candidate with more than 50% of the vote, the process is repeated until there is.

The Final Five voting system isn’t necessarily complicated, but it can be confusing because it’s so different from the way we have always conducted elections in Wisconsin. To make matters worse, if passed, this bill would apply to this year’s elections. It’s a tall order to get the whole state on the same page that quickly. In addition, the cost of restructuring the voting system is also of major concern. Maine uses a similar system for a few elected offices, and their taxpayers have to pay nearly another half a million dollars per election to make this system work. Wisconsin has four times the population of Maine; so it stands to reason that our cost would be much higher than Maine’s.

Additionally, this type of election system is ripe for manipulation and election tampering. 

Because of the complexity of this system, it would likely take weeks to determine who actually won the election. Beyond that, we’ve already seen how hard it is to keep the ballot safe, secure and properly counted for one night. Imagine the antics that dishonest vote counters could pull if we allow the counting to extend over a period of weeks. 

Right now is a terrible time to further erode our faith in our electoral system. Wisconsin Family Action firmly opposes Senate Bill 250/Assembly Bill 244.