School Choice Week (January 21-28) was recently observed here in Wisconsin and around the country. (January 21-28).  It’s appropriate that we reflect on the critical role that educational choice plays in our state. School choice empowers parents and students, giving them the freedom to choose educational options that best suit their individual needs, aspirations, and personal and family values.

Wisconsin has a plethora of educational options for parents, including district-based public schools, open enrollment for families wanting to send their children to a public school in another district, charter schools, virtual schools, regular private schools, and private schools participating in one of our three Parental Choice Programs–Milwaukee, Racine, Statewide–and homeschooling.

Reports like the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty’s annual Apples to Apples play a pivotal role in this educational choice discussion. This study provides valuable insights into the performance of various types of schools (public, independent charter, and voucher), offering data-driven evidence on why school choice matters by putting schools on a level playing field to assess education across all types of Wisconsin schools. 

WILL found that students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program consistently achieve higher academic results in English/Language Arts and math than their counterparts in public schools. Students enrolled in Milwaukee’s charter schools in general outperformed their peers in public schools. Twelve of the top 20 schools in Wisconsin are in the state’s choice (aka, “voucher”) programs. Moreover, choice and charter schools more efficiently use taxpayer money. In general, our voucher program is a win for both students and taxpayers.

WILL Research Director, Will Flanders, said, “Once again, school choice has proven significant performance advantages, in math and reading, for Wisconsin students. What’s more, is that the use of taxpayer dollars for these options give more bang for buck. WILL knows that the fight against school choice is far from over. This report highlights the need to continue to inform and defend educational opportunities for all.”

When families have the freedom to choose, they can seek out educational environments that not only meet the academic needs of their children but also align with their values and learning styles. This is especially important as woke indoctrination permeates our school and harms our children. Educational freedom also leads to more engaged and motivated students, which ultimately results in better educational outcomes.

Further, school choice provides equity in education. It breaks down the barriers of zip-code-determined schooling, offering quality educational opportunities to students regardless of their location or background. By allowing funds to follow the student, it creates a more level playing field.

Therefore, parents should take advantage of the school choice programs we have in our state as much as possible. This year in Wisconsin, application windows will open in February for those seeking educational choices for their children other than the public school in their district.

For over thirty years, Wisconsin has been at the forefront of educational innovation with its school choice program (vouchers), providing low-income parents the opportunity to select the best educational environment for their children, which includes both secular and religious private schools. WILL’s Apples to Apples report serves as a crucial reminder that we not only need to keep it that way but continue to find new ways to afford Wisconsin families as much educational freedom as possible. Implementing universal choice in Wisconsin could be a great next step in solidifying our state as a beacon of educational freedom. 

The good news is that we are approaching a critical election cycle. Every Wisconsin voter can play a role in protecting and advancing school choice by electing leaders this fall who boldly advocate for parents’ rights in education. 

Every parent should have the opportunity to choose the best school for their child, regardless of their income, zip code, or the size of their school district. Education shapes not only the present but also the future and expanding school choice is a step towards a brighter future for The Badger State.

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