Wisconsin Passes A School Choice Based Bill

Wisconsin school choice is closer than ever to becoming a reality as a piece of legislation heads to the governors office.

By Rick Gonzales | Published

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wisconsin school choice

For now, parents in Wisconsin that support school choice can rejoice as the concept is now close to being a reality. The Wisconsin Senate Education Committee passed Senate Bill 974 by a narrow margin. The bill aims to give parents more control than they’ve ever had in deciding the best path of education for their children.

Wisconsin school choice was just part of a larger bill package called the Empowering Parents K-12 Education Reform Package that was authored by Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), along with Roger Roth (R-Appleton), Reps. Robert Wittke (R-Racine), Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) and Rick Gundrum (R-Slinger). There are a number of moving parts inside this bill, but the focus was placed squarely on giving parents more rights.

What this bill is intended to do is to eliminate the income limits for the Wisconsin parental choice programs. It also eliminates the limits the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program has set on pupil participation. Family income threshold limits will increase which was used to determine if private schools could charge additional tuition. Finally, the Wisconsin school choice bill would create a temporary education reimbursement program for public school students.

School choice has not only been an issue in Wisconsin but across the entire nation. Parents are fighting for more rights, fighting to have the option to take their public school funds with them when deciding what school is best for their child, and also fighting for more transparency in the school curriculum. But in Wisconsin, school choice is just the tip of the iceberg.

The state’s biggest problem, according to many, is that too many children are being left behind by their public schools. Shocking numbers show that Wisconsin’s racial achievement gaps are constantly the worst or close to the worst in the nation. Wisconsin Congressman Mike Gallagher spoke of the comprehensive analysis from the Nation’s Report Card saying Wisconsin’s “White fourth-graders score about as well in math as our Black eighth-graders do, and we have the nation’s second-lowest Black graduation rate.” Wisconsin school choice seeks to alleviate some of these gaps.

The Wisconsin Public School system has been struggling for years. Things got much worse when COVID was introduced to the population and schools began to close. But if any good came from the pandemic it’s that it exposed the major weaknesses of the Wisconsin Public School system. It was apparent change was needed and parents demanded Wisconsin implement school choice.

Of the new bill, a number of parents spoke out on why Wisconsin school choice and parental rights are important. “It is the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of our children. However, we have witnessed over the past several years, parents have been shut out of classrooms and our rights slowly stripped away. Parents have lost trust with our government school system and are now demanding change. This legislation is needed to regain our fundamental rights and liberties as parents, and to preserve a high-quality education for all children,” said Alyssa Pollow, of Germantown, Wisconsin to Wisconsin Institute For Law & Liberty.

This bill allows the school choice program to find its true place in the education landscape in the State of Wisconsin. We won’t know that saturation point unless we actually let school choice be a viable alternative for all. Expansion of the choice program will be money well spent to focus on the fundamentals of preparing students for the real world.

Scott Frostman of Baraboo, Wisconsin

Republicans went to work on crafting a reform package that would benefit parents and children through Wisconsin school choice plans. They acknowledged that most teachers and schools do a commendable job, but they also realized that parents are often left with no options in deciding what they feel is best for their children. Legislators understand that the Wisconsin Public School system is struggling at best and that it is routinely hampered by the system’s bureaucracy.

While the passage of the Empowering Parents K-12 Education Reform Package is a major step forward, it was passed by a 4-3 margin, right down party lines. The big test is coming though, as the bill now moves forward to the desk of Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat. The expectation is that Gov. Evers will veto the bill. Wisconsin school choice is clearly something parents are demanding. They, if anyone, truly understand the difficulties seen within the Wisconsin Public School System. Maybe Gov. Evers will finally hear their pleas regarding Wisconsin school choice.