Lawfare and Public School Open Enrollment

Patrick Mcilheran and Jim Bender:

If successful, a lawsuit claiming Wisconsin’s private-school parental choice program and public independent charter schools are illegal will also shut down the Public School Open Enrollment program used by approximately 73,280 children, according to legal experts.

If a court buys the claim that one program’s funding mechanism is impermissible because of the way state aid follows children to another school, the others’ would be too, said Rick Esenberg, head of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, which is seeking to join the case.

The Public School Open Enrollment program allowed 73,280 students to attend a traditional public school in a district they did not live in during the 2022-23 school year, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

The number of children who took their state aid to a private school under Wisconsin’s parental choice programs was 52,062, and another 11,138 attended an independent public charter school. Attending traditional public district schools that year: 819,214. That means open enrollment amounted to 9% of district schools’ enrollment.