For over thirty years, Wisconsin has been at the forefront of educational innovation with its school choice program, providing low-income parents the opportunity to select the best educational environment for their children, which includes both secular and religious private schools.
Our Parental Choice Program began in 1990 with just the City of Milwaukee, but has expanded to include Milwaukee County, and under the Walker administration, a Racine choice program and a statewide choice program were launched. Currently, about 52,000 students are enrolled in private schools using a state-issued voucher.
As of last week, this successful program is facing a challenge in the form of a lawsuit filed by the Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC, a leftist group publicly stating it is out to destroy Wisconsin’s choice program. This lawsuit was filed directly to the state Supreme Court and asks the court to shut down the choice program before the 2024-2025 school year. It is disheartening to witness such a baseless, politically motivated attack on a program that has empowered families and improved educational outcomes for tens of thousands of children.
The essence of the lawsuit revolves around the claim that the school choice program diverts funds from public schools, crippling their ability to provide quality education, which is a fundamentally flawed assertion. Currently, statewide public school districts receive, on average, almost $15,000 per student of taxpayer money. Even with the increase in vouchers that the governor signed into law in the new budget, vouchers for K-8 students are just 64% of that amount, while vouchers for high school students are now 81% of the public school per-student cost. What this means is the voucher programs are saving taxpayers money.
Importantly, recent research done by School Choice Wisconsin shows that the choice programs are giving taxpayers a very good return, with voucher students consistently outperforming their public school peers on core subjects such as reading and math, as well as on standardized tests such as the ACT and the state’s Knowledge and Concepts Exam.
This lawsuit fails to acknowledge the diverse needs of Wisconsin’s students. Every child is unique, with individual learning styles, interests, and aspirations. Additionally, families differ in their values. Many families today, especially Christians, are realizing public schools are foisting values on their children that are antithetical to their family values. A one-size-fits-all approach to education simply does not suffice. School choice ensures that parents can tailor their child’s education to match what they want for their children, fostering an environment where students can thrive academically and personally, and also for many, spiritually.
While the lawsuit does not directly raise concerns about the participation of religious schools in Wisconsin’s school choice program, it is important to know that this issue was settled by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1998 in a case that challenged the original Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. The high court determined including religious private schools in the choice program did not violate either the US Constitution’s First Amendment or Wisconsin’s constitution. Subsequent and quite recent US Supreme Court decisions have also upheld the inclusion of religious private schools in such programs.
The bottom line is we have people in our state who despise the choice program; they have tried to discredit it and undo it for years. Now, with our state Supreme Court leaning liberal, they believe the time is right to aggressively use the courts to accomplish their goal. Fortunately, Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty is ready to fully defend this educational option on behalf of the tens of thousands of students and families who are flourishing because of this program. We call on Christians to pray for the justices and their decision and for the attorneys who will be involved with this high-stakes case.
With so many schools across the country engaging in activism and radical indoctrination, school choice is more important than ever. In Wisconsin, the Madison Metropolitan School District is introducing this week a “gender identity and sexual orientation curriculum.” Students will learn about “different identities, which include gender identity, sex assigned at birth, and sexual orientation,” according to an email sent to parents last week.
“We will be using our morning meeting time to do read-alouds and classroom discussions based around these topics. We will end the week with a rainbow day on Friday!” reads the district email.
Parents must be able to protect their children from these dangerous lies and ideas, and school choice allows them to do so.
This week is National School Choice week—an opportunity to highlight the importance of educational freedom and bring awareness to the educational options that families have in our state. It is a parent’s right to choose whichever schooling option best serves their child’s needs. This educational freedom also helps students thrive.
In Wisconsin, we take education freedom seriously. From open enrollment to brick and mortar and virtual charter schools to our three voucher programs to homeschooling, we believe parents, regardless of zip code or income, should be able to get their children out of a failing school and into a school that works for him or her.
Each student in Wisconsin is assigned a district based on their address. While the majority of families send their children to the school in their district, there are many other options. There are school choice programs for private schools, charter schools, virtual schools, and open enrollment (non-resident public school). Parents can also choose from dual enrollment options (college coursework while enrolled in high school), course options (advanced coursework taken in coordination with a local school district), and home-based private education.
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 “school voucher” option. These programs allow income-qualified families to send their children to private schools—including Christian schools—participating in Choice (voucher) Programs. Parents can apply to be part of a school choice program. Registration begins in February 1 for Wisconsin’s Choice Programs and runs through April 20, 2023.
Wisconsin also has one of the best homeschooling laws in the country. Parents are not burdened by overbearing restrictions as they are in some states. There are no required teacher qualifications or assessments.
While Wisconsin is leading the nation when it comes to school choice, there is always room for improvement. Universal choice, much like Arizona’s recent initiative, would provide Wisconsin families even more educational freedom. Incomes and zip codes should not determine who gets to take advantage of our educational options.
Thankfully, representatives across the country are working to uphold parents’ rights when it comes to educational freedom. Lawmakers in Virginia, Oklahoma, Iowa, Florida, and Georgia are actively proposing initiatives this legislative session that will expand schooling options in their states. It’s time for Wisconsin to do the same. Governor Evers, if he’s really about “the kids” as he claims, needs to cooperate with the legislature and enact true educational freedom here in the form of “universal choice.”
It is parents’ right to direct their children’s education, and a large part of that is choosing where their children go to school. Parents know their children best, and therefore are best equipped to choose a learning environment that will best serve their children’s needs and protect them from ideas that contradict their deeply held beliefs. Let’s take advantage of this week by highlighting the many options that parents have for their children’s education while calling on our leaders to ramp up the school choice efforts even more.
NSCW’s website offers a several 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.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a major win in Carson v. Makin in a ruling that says the state of Maine cannot bar parents from using state funds to send their children to a religious school.
In 2018, parents sued Maine after it banned families from sending their children to private schools using state tuition assistance.
In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “a neutral benefit program in which public funds flow to religious organizations through the independent choices of private benefit recipients does not offend the Establishment Clause.”
The high court’s decision reverses the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
This is excellent news for school choice and religious liberty throughout the country. Parents should never be prevented from directing their children’s education and sending them to whichever school best suits their needs.
School choice is really educational freedom and is a parent’s right and should not be determined by the state. Every child is different, and we should let parents, who know their children best, decide where to send them to school.
Wisconsin is currently a national leader in school choice. Parents can choose the public 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. Charter schools and virtual charter schools are also included under the public-school umbrella.
Wisconsin also offers the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the Racine Parental Choice Program, and the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program—all of which are part of 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.
This voucher program, which was first-in-the-nation, years ago went to the WI Supreme Court over allowing religious schools and received a favorable decision. At the time of the court case, only the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program was in place.
The decision to expand the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program to include private religious schools “places on equal footing options of public and private school choice and vests power in the hands of parents to choose where to direct the funds allocated for their children’s benefit,” wrote Justice Donald Steinmetz in the majority opinion.
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. However, our current governor is no fan of school choice.
We are currently in an election cycle, and this fall we have the opportunity to hold Gov. Evers accountable and elect leaders who will uphold parents’ right to school choice.
The coronavirus crisis has catalyzed a drastic surge in homeschooling as parents’ concerns grow about public education.
While homeschooling numbers are slightly lower than last year’s record high, they are still significantly higher than pre-COVID-19 levels. During the 2020-2021 school year, the number of homeschooling students in the U.S. increased by 63%. Even though schools have re-opened, the majority of families that opted for homeschooling over remote learning have continued with it.
The Wisconsin Policy Forum reported historic drops in enrollment for public and private schools in Wisconsin. Nearly 31,900 students were homeschooled during the 2020-21 school year, which is a 47% increase from the previous year.
Private school enrollment took less of a hit than public school enrollment, but still saw the greatest decrease since 2013.
Virtual charter schools also attracted new Wisconsin families, as enrollment increased by 84% from last year.
In Milwaukee, public school enrollment decreased by 4.2% and 151 students switched to homeschooling.
Parents have attributed their decision to homeschool to philosophical differences with their schools, Covid restrictions, and concerns about the quality of education. Generally, children arebetter off learning vital skills and values from their parents than being propagandized from activist teachers.
With so much corruption happening in public schools, homeschooling acts as a beacon of hope. Children benefit greatly, especially mentally and spiritually, when they are primarily guided by their parents rather than the anti-Christian culture that is overrunning schools.
Thankfully, Wisconsin is leading the country in school choice, and it offers homeschooling parents plenty of freedom to direct their children’s education. The homeschool law was passed in 1983 and hasn’t been changed since then, making it one of the best homeschool laws in the country.
The Academy of Excellence Online (AoE) provides an excellent homeschooling opportunity for families in Wisconsin – it is a virtual program available for Wisconsin parents interested in homeschooling and also is part of the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (“the voucher program”).. The deadline for applying is April 21st! AoE also has brick-and-mortar Christian schools in Milwaukee that also participate in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.
Homeschooling is an excellent option for parents who want to protect their children from radical indoctrination. It provides parents the opportunity to train their children for the ideological battle being waged against them. Children need to learn how to recognize and combat the lies they are being fed, meaning all parents must engage in some form of education at home. The very best defense for children is parents being on offense!
This transition away from public school is a necessary and exciting change. Let’s keep the momentum going in Wisconsin and continue to vouch for homeschooling and school choice in order to protect children and parents’ rights. Hopefully next legislative session we can expand educational freedom in Wisconsin.
A recent poll issued by the Marquette Law School revealed that many Wisconsin voters are in favor of expanding school choice and giving parents the right to decide where to send their children, regardless of family income. Fifty-nine percent supported “allowing all students statewide to use publicly funded vouchers to attend private or religious schools” while 37% opposed it. The number in support rose 18% from August 2020.
The poll also revealed that over half of the participants believed that schools are worse shape now compared to a few years ago, whereas in 2018, only 44% thought this was true. Furthermore, “47% of voters say the standards are lower than they should be,” which has remained consistent since early 2014.
With the introduction of Critical Race Theory (CRT), pro-LGBTQ+ curricula, and a shift from American classic novels and history to sexualized literature and education, many parents are frustrated with the public school system and are seeking alternatives.
Some more compelling evidence: another recent poll from RealClear Opinion Research discovered that an overwhelming 72% of voters nationally support school choice (up 8% from 2020) and that includes Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.
“These poll numbers are stunning,” said Tommy Schultz, CEO of the American Federation for Children. “The past two years have exposed to the world what many in the parental choice movement have known for decades: no single educational environment is right for every child. As the battle over educational freedom continues, party affiliation is secondary to ensuring all families are empowered to choose the best educational setting for their children.”
And the battle will continue. WFA has been vocal about Assembly Bill 970 (AB 970) which would expand school choice options in Wisconsin. If passed, income limits for parental choice programs and pupil participation limits would be eliminated and an education expense reimbursement program for students remaining in public school for the 2022-2023 school year would be created.
School choice is a parent’s right and should not be determined by the state. Children are not all the same; what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another and it shouldn’t have to. It’s like trying to put a square block into a circular hole; it just won’t fit. Instead of trying to conform children to one specific mold, we should let parents, who know their children best, decide where to send them to school.
Woke indoctrination is flooding our schools and harming our children. We cannot stand by and continue to let it brainwash them; there must be an alternative. Wisconsin voters have voiced their support for school choice, and now it’s time to turn that support into law.
Last month the State Assembly passed AB 970, and the Senate passed it earlier this week. The bill will shortly be on its way to the governor.
Take action: contact Governor Evers and urge him to support educational choice for all. Send him an online message HERE or call his office at 608-266-1212.
The Assembly Committee on Education held a hearing on Assembly Bill 970 Wednesday. The bill would essentially provide universal school choice here in The Badger State.
WFA has been a vocal proponent of school choice over the years. We were thrilled when Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-led state legislature expanded the Parental Choice Program (PCP) to the entire state as the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program. Assembly Bill 970 will further expand educational opportunities for families and promote parental rights.
I testified to the committee in support of this bill, explaining that several studies demonstrate the efficacy of school choice.
With the formation of School Choice Wisconsin and Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty, we
have conducted extensive research showing that students enrolled in one of our PCPs (Milwaukee, Racine, Statewide), on average, do very well, often out-performing their peers in public schools.
In WILL’s most recent Apples to Apples Study (covering 2019 test data), Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program Proficiency rates in math exceeded rates in Milwaukee Public Schools by 3.9% and by 4.6% in English Language Arts on average. The same study revealed that children enrolled in choice programs demonstrated greater proficiency than those in traditional public school by 3.05%.
Further, scholars in the School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP) applied state-of-the-art matching methods to compare students in the MPCP with students in MPS who were similar in neighborhood, race, and prior achievement. Among the findings from this matching analysis are that students in the MPCP were 4-7 percentage points more likely to graduate from high school. Moreover, students in the MPCP were found to achieve higher scores in reading, though similar scores in math.
Students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program are also more likely to graduate from college. Dr. Will Flanders posits that expanding the Parental Choice Program could lead to substantial economic gains for our state. He estimates that Madison could see $100 million in economic benefits, $75 million for Green Bay, $60 million for Appleton and $24 million for La Crosse.
Other findings from the SCDP, not related to academic achievement, show that students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program have lower incidences of criminal behavior and extensive economic benefits. These programs save taxpayers money and in general provide a better return on their tax investment.
Right now, our Choice Programs are limited to individuals with certain incomes, in some cases those with certain zip codes, and also by enrollment caps. It’s time to lift all of those limitations, and Assembly Bill 970 does that.
It’s time to give all parents, regardless of income or zip code or number of people in their school district, an opportunity to choose the best school for their child.
Education isn’t just about today; it’s about tomorrow—and expanding the Choice Programs means good things for Wisconsin’s future.
Our state’s Parental Choice Programs have been tried and tested now over many years. Studies continue to show students in these programs are, on average, certainly performing no worse than their public-school counterparts and in many cases, are performing not just better, but significantly better. It’s time to give this opportunity to all parents across our state.
Parents alone are responsible for the education of their children. The more educational options parents have, the better, as they seek what is best for their children.
Use this link to find your state legislators and urge them to pass this bill and support parents and school choice in Wisconsin!
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.