Future for School Choice is Bright in Wisconsin

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MILWAUKEE (Nov. 10, 2014) – The Wisconsin Federation for Children (WFC) applauds Gov. Scott Walker and legislative leaders who have signaled a desire to lift the onerous enrollment cap on Wisconsin’s statewide school choice program from its 1,000 student limit.

“Recent legislative victories along with Gov. Walker’s re-election means thousands of Wisconsin children will have a brighter future and increased access to quality educational options,” said Brian Fraley, spokesperson for the Wisconsin Federation for Children. “Legislative leaders and the Governor have all pledged to expand the statewide school choice program and that is great news for Wisconsin families.”

A poll conducted by WFC in legislative swing districts this year showed the public’s support for expanding the statewide program.

When asked if they favor “Expanding Wisconsin’s statewide school choice program so that it would allow any working class Wisconsin parent to use taxpayer dollars to send their child to the public, private or religious school of their choice. The law currently only allows the poorest parents to be in the program,” 60 percent said they favored, 33 percent said strongly favored, and only 32 percent opposed.

When asked if they favor “Eliminating the cap on Wisconsin’s statewide school choice program so that more than 1,000 children can use taxpayer dollars to attend the public, private or religious school of their parents’ choice,” 56 percent said they favored, 35 percent strongly favored and only 38 percent opposed.

School choice critics and those who oppose expanding the program frequently focus on where school choice scholarship recipients previously went to school before receiving a scholarship as an indicator that the program should not be expanded to help even more low-income families. Fraley said politicians who focus  on this  ignore the fact that there are strict income guidelines for all scholarship recipients and these scholarships are  not available to wealthy private school enrollees.  Also, despite what opponents claim, the programs do not thrive at the detriment of local public schools.

“School choice does not deprive local school districts of funding,” said Fraley. “Those who peddle that talking point need to do their homework.”

Under the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program families that qualify for the federal poverty program that offers free and reduced priced lunch can receive state assistance to enroll in the private school of their choice. For example, a single mother with a child and an annual income of less than $29,095 would qualify for the statewide choice program. Currently the program is capped at providing scholarships for only 1,000 students. 

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The American Federation for Children is the nation’s leading school choice advocacy organization and works in states across the country to help secure additional, high-quality educational options for families.

The Wisconsin Federation for Children is the state-based affiliate of the American Federation for Children.