SCOTUS protects religious liberty in major school choice case

SCOTUS protects religious liberty in major school choice case

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. 

Even after public schools reopened, homeschooling numbers are up

Even after public schools reopened, homeschooling numbers are up

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. 

Majority Support Universal School Choice

Majority Support Universal School Choice

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.

Support Assembly Bill 970 to expand school choice

Support Assembly Bill 970 to expand school choice

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!

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.