Wisconsin’s Open Enrollment Program Provides Critical School Choice Option for 62,000 Students


The News: With the approach of National School Choice Week, January 24-29, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) provides a first of its kind look at Wisconsin’s open enrollment program, arguably Wisconsin’s largest and most popular school choice program. Wisconsin’s open enrollment program serves more than 62,000 Wisconsin students who choose to attend public schools outside of their designated attendance zone. This new study charts the history of the program, the fiscal and enrollment impacts on school districts, and recommendations for reform.

Diving Deeper: For more than 20 years, Wisconsin’s open enrollment program has provided a vital option for Wisconsin families seeking public school options beyond their designated attendance zone. WILL’s new study, Public School Choice in Wisconsin: A Work in Progress, by Jessica Holmberg and Will Flanders, details the growth and impact of Wisconsin’s open enrollment program.

• The open enrollment program is Wisconsin’s largest school choice program. More than 62,000 students across the state participated during the 2018-19 school year. This is approximately 20,000 more than the next largest choice program—private school choice (43,000). The program continues to grow between .3 and .6% each year.

• Parents make open enrollment decisions based on academics. With controls for a number of other variables, Forward Exam proficiency predicts positive open enrollment into a district.