A New Bill in the Wisconsin Legislature Would Expand School Choice

Will Flanders:

The pandemic has emphasized the importance of having many educational options available to families. Private schools, which have been more willing to keep their doors open than public schools throughout the pandemic, are one such critical option. Open enrollment into neighboring districts that may offer an alternative model of education are another one. Yet for far too many families, these options, that best fit the needs of their children, remain out of reach. Instead, families are forced to continue to fund their local public schools with tax dollars, even as they refuse to open at the behest of unions. A new bill from Senator Dale Kooyenga seeks to change that, at least for the 2021–22 school year.

WILL has long been a proponent of increasing the income limit for the WPCP. Currently, only families who make less than 220% of the federal poverty limit are eligible to participate in the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP). The WPCP offers families a voucher to send their children to participating private schools throughout the state at no additional cost. While the program is laudable in it’s goal to serve low-income families, the bottom line is that the cost of private education is out of the realm of possibility for many in the middle class as well. While Wisconsin has relatively low-cost private schools compared to the rest of the country, the average annual cost for an elementary school is $3,445 and the average cost of high school is $8,110 according to the most recent data available. These are expenses that often only the wealthiest can afford.