If there’s ever been a time for parents to consider the panoply of educational options we have in Wisconsin, it’s now. Let’s put it this way: public schools are besieged with problems, from teaching Critical Race Theory, to having books in physical and digital libraries that are more than inappropriate, to denying parents access to classrooms, to refusing to cooperate with parents’ requests regarding the names and pronouns used to address their child, to outright lying to parents about the gender expression of their child while at school, to providing special rights and protections for boys who say they are girls and girls who say they are boys, to sex education that promotes promiscuity, and more.
Yes, all this is happening in Wisconsin government schools. It’s not just Loudon County, Virginia; or California, or New York. It’s here. It’s in our communities.
This week is National School Choice Week, a time when special effort is made to ensure people know what our educational options are, their track records, and how to access more information. It’s true that knowledge is power—in this instance, power to make decisions for the good of children.
In summary, the educational options include traditional brick and mortar public schools; virtual public schools; independent charter schools, which public money pays for but the school boards are separate from the normal public school boards; open enrollment, which allows families to enroll their child in a public school in a district outside of where they live; parental choice programs, commonly referred to as voucher programs; virtual parental choice programs; private schools in general; and homeschooling.
Full information about these choices is available at dpi.wi.gov, that’s dpi.wi.gov. Click on Families & Students on the top menu bar, then select “Programs and Initiatives” in the dropdown menu, and then “School Choice” on the left sidebar.
Wisconsin’s flagship educational option is our three Parental Choice Programs—Milwaukee, Racine, and statewide. These programs are commonly called “voucher programs,” because they allow income-qualifying families to use a state-issued voucher to attend a private school—including religious private schools—that are participating in one of the parental choice programs.
The Milwaukee program is the oldest of the programs begun in 1990 and is the oldest program of its kind in the nation. Over the years, the vast majority of the schools in the Milwaukee program, as well as those enrolled in the newer Racine and statewide programs, have produced excellent results for the students and families attending through the voucher program.
Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty says more than 86,000 Wisconsin students attend a private school on a voucher or a public charter school. Additionally, we are finding higher reading and math proficiency in Choice and charter schools. Research shows voucher student are less likely to commit crimes and are more likely to graduate from high school and college.
Thanks to a lawsuit a few years ago, a private school participating in the voucher program can offer a virtual program. At least one such school is offering this as an option. Academy of Excellence, a Christian school in Milwaukee has a robust virtual voucher program available to students across the state.
For Christian parents in particular, it’s essential to remember that God gave them the responsibility for the education of their children. They can choose a partner to assist in that formal education, but at no point is the responsibility shifted to the partner, whether that entity wildly succeeds or abysmally fails.
Knowledge about other options is critical. School Choice Week is a great time for parents and others to become knowledgeable in part because registration windows for some of these programs, including open enrollment and the voucher programs, open in early February. Of course, parents can choose to put their children in a private school and pay the tuition or begin homeschooling at any time.
The education of children is obviously vitally important. Who educates a child, where he or she is educated, and what is taught in both academics and beyond matters—and matters greatly. It behooves parents who are interested in exploring Wisconsin’s educational options to get the information early, ask questions, visit schools, and certainly pray, asking God for wisdom and direction as they consider what is best for their children. It may be that for many the public schools are no longer a viable option.
This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
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