Search results

234 results found.

2023 Wisconsin Open Enrollment Data

Quinton Klabon:

9.0% of all district students attend school outside their home district. That makes it the BIGGEST school choice program.

73,280 transfers occurred. (+1,791 from 2022)

Who gained and lost the most students? Click through!


This is enrollment lost since 2020 versus open enrollment applications rejected. Those kids are all public school kids. No schools closed. So, does anyone know the reasons so many were rejected for “space?”


Wisconsin’s open enrollment program continues to grow. With more than 72,000 participating students, it is the largest #SchoolChoice program in the state. (1/2)

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.

Open Enrollment Might Just Be Inevitable

Jennifer Wagner:

EdChoice Fellow and longtime school choice advocate Matt Ladner has a solid new blog post over at the Fordham Institute about the future of open enrollment and the changing demographics of our nation, specifically lower birth rates and longer life expectancies.

Using his home state of Arizona as “the demographic canary in America’s coal mine,” Ladner makes a compelling case that three main factors — the pre-pandemic baby bust; an increase in homeschooling and microschooling; and new and improved school choice policies — are driving toward a potentially unpleasant conclusion for those folks who’ve high-tailed it to the suburbs to access high-quality public schools:

The upshot of this is that many suburban districts are going to find themselves short of students, which means that many may lower the drawbridge to allow in open enrollment transfers to avoid closure. When this happened in Arizona, the choice knob got turned to “11.” Almost all Arizona districts participate in open enrollment now, even the fancy suburban ones.

Though it’s not a policy we focus on in our advocacy efforts, I’m a broken record when it comes to the issue of open enrollment and how we talk about school choice.

Even those who staunchly defend traditional public education can see that there are severe economic and racial inequities baked into the system when it comes to urban versus suburban schools. (Don’t believe me? Take three minutes and watch this video on the history of redlining featuring 50CAN’s Derrell Bradford.)

Those inequities, of course, are the result of assigning schools to families based on where they live, not what they need, and funding those schools in many states using property tax dollars.

Notes on Open Enrollment

Matthew Ladner:

In the process, Arizona districts became choice operators themselves. Scottsdale Unified, for example, currently has about a fifth of their students coming into the district through open enrollment. The key to spurring open enrollment wasn’t laws. It was incentives. The bureaucracies needed the money, and as some suburban districts got more active in open enrollment, it created competitive pressure on other districts to do the same.

A majority of Phoenix area students do not attend their zip-code-assigned school. District open enrollment students outnumber charter students almost two to one, despite Arizona having the largest charter school enrollment. Perhaps not coincidentally, during all of this, data collected by Stanford University sociologist Sean F. Reardon showed that Arizona students ranked firstin academic gains between 2008 and 2018. They learned more per year of schooling during this period than any other state and had strong growth across multiple subgroups.

So what does this have to do with your state? Events seem to be conspiring to crack open suburban districts for open enrollment broadly. First, there was a national baby bust going on before Covid-19. Worst still, a survey by the Guttmacher Institute found that one-third of American women polled in late April and early May wanted to delay childbearing or have fewer children because of the pandemic. This will pinch enrollment.

Second, the pandemic has seen a gigantic increase in homeschool enrollment and the creation of an entirely new micro-school sector. Tyton Partners created a panel study of American families to estimate national enrollment trends. Figure 1 below presents its estimates for fall 2021.

Commentary on Expanding Wisconsin Open Enrollment


Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony in support of Senate Bill 41. The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) believes that every student in Wisconsin deserves access to a high-quality education and this bill advances that principle by removing barriers in the Open Enrollment and Wisconsin Parental Choice Programs.

Senate Bill 41 expands access to both the Open Enrollment and Wisconsin Parental Choice Programs by removing the zip code barrier, which locks students into limited educational options based on their address.

The Open Enrollment Program is the state’s largest school choice program with over 65,000 students last year choosing to attend a public school outside of their residential district. Our research1 found that demand and utilization of this program have grown over the past 20 years. In fact, overall participation increases each year 3-6% (or approx. 2,000-4,000 students). However, over 9,000 applications (24%) were denied in the 2019-2020 school year by districts and the overwhelming reason for denial was space.
Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted families’ interest and need for additional educational options. Without a doubt, more families are looking for the best educational options for their students outside of their assigned public schools. The program must be amended to respond to the increased demand. But the Open Enrollment Program limits applications to only three non-residential districts per year, which restricts families’ options even further. SB 41 expands options for families by removing the three application limit for the 2021-2022 school year so families can find the school that best meets the educational needs of their child.

The Open Enrollment Program also allows students to apply outside of the traditional enrollment window by submitting an “alternative application” under certain circumstances, including “best interest for the child.” Just last year, 14,000 of the 15,000 alternative applications were submitted for that reason. SB 41 prohibits a child’s resident school district from denying a student transfer to a nonresidential district if both the parents and nonresidential district agree it’s in the best interest of the child. This will help keep families seeking alternative education options from being denied access to a nonresidential public school.

Bills Increase Access to Wisconsin Open Enrollment, Expanding Public School Choice

Jessica Holmberg:

Gov. Evers recently signed two bills that increase public school choice in Wisconsin. SB 109 and SB 110 specifically aim to remove barriers to accessing Wisconsin’s largest school choice option, the Open Enrollment Program, by expanding access to virtual schools. The program allows over 65,000 students to access a public school district outside their own without living within the district’s boundaries.

Senate Bill 109, introduced by Senators Ballweg, Testin, and Feyen, further expands access by allowing students to apply to both fully virtual charter schools and fully virtual programs for the 2021-2022 school year. Senate Bill 110, introduced by Senator Ballweg, makes permanent changes to the law by eliminating the three-district application limit for fully virtual charter schools.

Under current law, students may submit applications to up to three public school districts outside their own during the February 1st – April 30th application period. Unfortunately, if a student is denied by all three districts, by law they must wait until the following school year to re-apply. Additionally, current law does not specifically permit students to attend a fully virtual program using open enrollment.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

Open enrollment study finds winners and losers, and recommends changes

Benjamin Yount:

There are winners and losers in Wisconsin’s Open Enrollment program, but just who fits in either category may be a bit surprising. 

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty released its deep dive into the state’s Open Enrollment program last week. The report details a number of positives, a handful of negatives, and some suggestions to make sure that all kids in Wisconsin get a shot at a high quality education. 

The report states there are net winners and net losers in the program. It’s not a reflection on the quality of education, rather it’s WILL’s measure of school districts that gain students through open enrollment and school districts that lose students. 

WILL found that many low-income schools lose both students and state funding because of open enrollment, and that higher income schools usually attract those students. 

“Between 2015 and 2019 the top 15 net winning districts each year saw net increases in enrollment of between 24%- 69%,” the report states. “The top 15 ‘net-losing’ school districts between 2015 and 2019 saw enrollment losses between 13% and 47%.”

WILL’s Jessica Holmberg said the numbers tell only part of the story. 

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.

Open Enrollment and Student Diversity in Ohio’s Schools

Deven Carlson:

Approximately 85,000 Ohio students use interdistrict open enrollment to attend a neighboring school district. Titled Open Enrollment and Student Diversity in Ohio’s Schools, this new report examines whether these student transfers are creating more diverse schools, or possibly worsening segregation.


To assess this question, Dr. Deven Carlson of the University of Oklahoma compares current segregation levels across Ohio’s 600 plus school districts to a counterfactual in which all students attend their home district (i.e., no open enrollment). Based on his analysis of Ohio Department of Education data for the 2012–13 to 2017–18 school years, the following findings emerge.

Ohio school districts are highly segregated by race. As of 2017–18, 70.0 percent of Black students would need to change districts to achieve an even distribution (that is, each district’s enrollment would reflect the state average of Black students). Segregation levels in Ohio are higher than the national average where 61 percent of Black students would need to relocate.

Frustrated by virtual classes, families use open enrollment to transfer children to schools with in-person learning

Annysa Johnson:

Catherine Winkel was prepared for the usual back-to-school expenses. The notebooks and binders, pens and pencils, new clothes, new shoes.

There was one expense she hadn’t expected: thousands of dollars in tuition to send her 7-year-old to private school where she could attend classes in person.

But after the Mequon-Thiensville School District announced it would be starting the school year remotely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Winkel enrolled her first grader at Christ Alone, a small, neighborhood Lutheran school.

The district has since reversed itself, offering in-person instruction for families that want that option. Winkel’s older child, who is a freshman this year, will stay in the district. But she’s keeping her youngest at her new school.

“We had to take a big dent in the savings account,” said Winkel. “We were saving for other essentials, not at the last minute to pay for private tuition for an elementary school student.”

Winkel is among a number of Milwaukee-area parents who have decided to transfer their children to other schools — public and private — to avoid having them spend their school days online.

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees).

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 


The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

Commentary on Open Enrollment, the rule of law and the taxpayer supported Madison School District

Scott Girard:

The Madison Metropolitan and Monona Grove school districts are applying for a waiver from the state to continue an agreement that allows up to five MGSD students to attend Nuestro Mundo Charter School beginning with each kindergarten class.

The state Department of Public Instruction informed the districts in December 2019 that the agreement, which has allowed the MGSD students to bypass the open enrollment and MMSD lottery processes since the school moved to Monona in 2012, does not comply with statutes. 

“A preference cannot be given to a set number of Monona Grove School District (MGSD) resident students based on their residency,” the Dec. 18, 2019, letter from DPI school administration consultant Cassi Benedict states. “MGSD students are subject to the same admission requirements and random selection process of all students interested in attending Nuestro Mundo Charter School.”

Notes and links on open enrollment.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Three Countries in 14 Minutes: School Choice Lessons From Abroad Vouchers, private schools, and open enrollment in France, Sweden, and New Zealand

Emily Richmond:

School choice is one of the most contentious issues in K-12 education today. But it’s hardly an American invention. Sarah Butrymowicz of The Hechinger Report recently traveled to New Zealand, Sweden, and France to look at how school choice plays out, and whether there are lessons for the U.S. system. Why is New Zealand considered a “school choice utopia,” and how is its open enrollment policy driving programming and competition among local campuses? Sweden’s “free schools” are similar to what U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has said she envisions in a voucher program — but is that contributing to the Scandinavian country’s steady slide on international assessments? And in France, a longstanding reliance on funneling public dollars to private schools offers insights into the challenge of providing equitable education to less-affluent families. Butrymowicz, an EWA Reporting Fellow, discusses the research on school choice programs abroad, as well as tips and questions for covering the issue stateside.

Tucson Arizona versus Columbus Ohio: open enrollment

Matthew Ladner:

I believe that open enrollment is a big reason that Arizona has been leading the nation in NAEP gains, and that charter and private choice programs deserve some credit the eagerness with which districts participate. Take a look at Columbus on the above map- a large urban district literally surrounded by districts choosing not to allow open enrollment transfers. Now take a look at the school district map of Pima County. The Tucson Unified School District is surrounded by districts that do participate in open-enrollment- actively.

Much more on open enrollment, here.

Open enrollment application period for Wisconsin public schools starts Feb. 6

Bill Novak:

Parents who plan to send their students to a public school other than where they live can start signing up for open enrollment on Feb. 6.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction announced on Thursday the application period for open enrollment in the 2017-18 school year will run from Feb. 6 to April 28.

The open enrollment era in Wisconsin began in 1998-99, and has grown in popularity every year since.

Much more on open enrollment here.

Open Enrollment Survey and Data Update – Madison School District

Madison School District Administration (PDF):

In total, MMSD has 365 open enrollment enterers and 1294 open enrollment leavers for 2016-17; among those 1294 leavers, 58% have never enrolled in an MMSD school.

2. The net effect of open enrollment decreased by 70 students. The number of open enrollment leavers decreased by 21 students and the number of open enrollment enterers increased by 49 students.

3. The number of new leavers decreased by 51 students.

4. The most common grades for new open enrollment leavers are 4K, KG, and ninth grade. The most common grades for new open enrollment enterers are 4K, eleventh, and twelfth grade. Open enrollment leavers are disproportionately white while enterers are disproportionately students of color.

5. Open enrollment leavers are clustered around the outskirts of the district and most often attend the closest suburban district to their home.

2016 Surveys: “Leavers” “Enterers“.

1. The two most common reasons parents cited for transferring their children out of MMSD were the school has a better academic environment, 26%, followed by the school has a better culture or climate, 23%.

2. The top two programs in the other district that influenced parents’ decisions to leave MMSD were Advanced learner programming, 22%, and Advanced Placement courses, 15%.

3. The most common districts parents transferred their children to were: Monona, 21%, McFarland, 17%, Verona, 14% and Other District, 13%.

Much more on open enrollment, including the 2009 survey, here.

DSST PARCC Results (open Enrollment STEM Schools)

Bill Kurtz:

Today the Colorado Department of Education released results from the Colorado standardized test (PARCC) from 2014-15. We are excited that under this much more rigorous test, our schools remain some of the highest performing in the city:

All of DSST’s high schools (DSST: Cole, DSST: GVR and DSST: Stapleton) rank in the top four out of 45 DPS high schools for English and math.

Commentary on Madison’s Growing Outbound Open Enrollment Count, despite substantial spending growth

Doug Ericsson:

The financial ramifications are significant. A school district gaining a student receives a share of the student’s home district’s state aid to help pay for educating that student. The Madison School District will lose about $6.5 million in state aid this school year because of open enrollment, the report said.

“Obviously, I am not pleased,” said Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham. “I want Madison to be the first choice for families. That’s what we’re working on.”

She said that while the report is disappointing, it will motivate her and others to work harder.

Overall, the district’s enrollment this school year is 25,231 in grades K-12, down 0.3 percent, or 74 students. There are an additional 1,778 students enrolled in 4-year-old kindergarten.

Much more on Madison’s $454,414,941.93 2015-2016 budget and open enrollment, (about $17K per student!).

Despite spending far more than most K-12 government schools, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

More, here.

Group says Wisconsin open enrollment rules violate ADA

Jill Tatge-Rozell, via a kind reader:

Kenosha parents whose autistic child was not admitted into Paris Consolidated School through open enrollment have joined a lawsuit that claims Wisconsin’s open enrollment rules violate federal disability law.

Specifically, the suit claims open enrollment violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because it denies students with disabilities the benefits of a government program on the basis of disability.

“We view the open enrollment process as a government benefit,” said C.J. Szafir, education policy director for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. “Since the program is out there, all children should have equal access.”

Wisconsin law allows a school district to establish how many students with disabilities it will accept through open enrollment. In some cases, such as at Paris, districts do not accept any students with disabilities.

WILL is representing six children with disabilities from five families whose applications to attend schools outside their resident district were denied. The identities of the parents and the children are protected at this point in the proceedings.

However, Szafir said far more children with disabilities have had their open enrollment applications denied since the program started. For the 2013-14 school year alone, he said, more than 1,000 disabled children had their applications for open enrollment rejected solely on the basis of their disability.

Commentary on open Enrollment & the Madison school District

Chris Rickert:

Of course, public schools officials will never accept a rating system that includes a failing-grade option; some things are OK for students, but not for the people who educate them.

None of these initiatives is any older than 2011, when Republicans took over complete control of the state government, but parents have been voting against the Madison district — with their feet — since they were first allowed to in 1998.

The open enrollment program was included in the 1997 state budget bill and allows parents to enroll their children in any public school district that has the space.

In the years since, the Madison district has never seen more students coming in than going out. In the current school year, 1,203 children living within the district’s boundaries opted to go to other districts, according to a district report. Another 372 opted to come into Madison from other districts.

A 2009 survey of families who took advantage of the open enrollment program to leave Madison found that 61 percent of parents pointed to environmental problems with Madison schools as among the reasons they left. Overcrowded classrooms, bullying and poor communication were among the specific complaints.

Notes and links on Madison’s open enrollment history, here.

An Update on Open Enrollment & The Madison Schools

Molly Beck:

There are 1,203 students living within the Madison School District’s boundaries who have enrolled in other school districts this school year — about 62 more than last year. The number of students from other districts who enrolled in Madison schools is 372, up by about 73.

The net effect is a loss of 831 students, which is down from 842 last school year.

Wisconsin is one of 22 states that allow open enrollment, under which students can enroll in other public school districts than the one in which they reside if the receiving district has room for them.

School districts gaining students receive a share of the students’ home district’s state aid to help pay for educating that student.

The Madison School District will lose about $5.7 million in state aid this school year because of open enrollment, the report said.

The report also noted that of the 1,203 students who are currently enrolled in another district, 356 are students who open enrolled in another district for the first time this school year — a 22 student decrease from a peak during the 2012-13 school year. The rest are students who were previously open enrolled in another district.

Much more on Open Enrollment, here and here.

Open enrollment leavers survey. More.

WILL to Wisconsin DPI: Open Enrollment Process May Violate ADA, State Law

Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, via a kind reader:

Today, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty sent a letter to Superintendent Evers of the Department of Public Instruction, raising serious concerns about whether the DPI is misapplying the open enrollment laws in a way that discriminates against students with disabilities in violation of state law as well as Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Explained CJ Szafir, WILL Education Policy Director, “Every school year, hundreds of students with disabilities are denied the right to open enroll by their school district. When parents appeal the decision, records and interviews with parents have shown that the DPI is not protecting the rights of those students but is instead approving the rejections without conducting the analysis that it is legally required. The whole process leaves parents frustrated, and trapped in a school district that does not serve the needs of their child.”
The purpose of Wisconsin’s open enrollment program is to allow parents to choose a school district for their child other than the school district where they reside. But, students with disabilities have their applications for open enrollment rejected at a much higher rate than those without a disability. A major cause of this disparity is the resident school district claiming that they would incur an “undue financial burden” if the child leaves the school district.

Wisconsin Public school open enrollment starts Feb. 3


Wisconsin’s public school open enrollment application period will start in February for the 2014-15 school year, according to a release.
The program allows parents an opportunity to send their children to any public school district in the state, officials said. The enrollment period runs from Feb. 3 to April 30.
Children in the state are usually assigned to public school districts based on the location of their parents’ home, according to the release. The open enrollment application period is the only tuition-free opportunity for most parents to apply for their children to attend a public school in a school district other than the one they live in.
The program is an inter-district choice program that started in the 1998-99 school year, according to the release. Wisconsin is among 12 states with inter-district open enrollment.
“Wisconsin is among a number of states nationwide that offer public school open enrollment across school districts. The state’s long-running program supports parental involvement and shared responsibility for educating children,” State Superintendent Tony Evers said in the release.

Much more on open enrollment, here.

Remember whom open enrollment serves

Chad Aldis:

Quick! Name the Ohio school-choice program that has provided students the opportunity to attend a school not operated by their resident school district for the longest period of time. Charter schools? Nope, strike 1. The Cleveland voucher program? Try again, strike 2. Unless you guessed open enrollment, that’s strike 3. Before heading back to the dugout, read on to learn more about this established school-choice program.
Open enrollment, first approved by the legislature in 1989, allows school districts (if they choose) to admit students whose home district is not their own. Perhaps against conventional wisdom, it has become a popular policy for districts. We even analyzed the trend in an April 2013 Gadfly.
According to Ohio Department of Education records, over 80 percent of school districts in the state have opted to participate in some form of open enrollment. There are 432 districts that have opened their doors to students from any other district in the state, and another sixty-two districts have allowed students from adjacent districts to attend their schools.
This year’s budget bill (HB 59) created a task force to study open enrollment. The task force is to “review and make recommendations regarding the process by which students may enroll in other school districts under open enrollment and the funding mechanisms associated with open enrollment deductions and credits.” The task force’s findings are to be presented to the Governor and legislature by the end of the year.

Much more on Open Enrollment here.

Which Madison schools are losing the most students to open enrollment?

Todd Milewski:

he number of students that have left Madison schools for other districts through the state’s public school open enrollment program has grown every year since 2005.
But which schools are those students leaving? Our graphic below uses Madison Metropolitan School District data to show the number of leavers — the term used for students who live in the Madison district but go to school in another — by which school’s attendance area they live in. (Note that the open enrollment program doesn’t apply to students who leave for private schools or to be home-schooled.)
By percentage of enrollment, the schools with the most leavers were Glendale Elementary (83, 17.5 percent), Leopold Elementary (67, 10.2 percent), Toki Middle (48, 9.4 percent) and La Follette High (121, 8.2 percent). Memorial High has the highest number of leavers at 134, but its higher enrollment put it only eighth when ranked by percentage (7.3 percent).
Of the 1,041 leavers for the 2012-13 school year, 494 were from elementary schools, 188 were in the middle school grades 6 through 8 and 359 were at the high school level.
The Monona Grove School District was the most popular destination for the leavers, followed closely by Verona and McFarland. Students left Madison for 25 districts, but data for how many attended each was not fully available because the district can’t report small numbers due to privacy concerns.

Much more on outbound open enrollment here.

Madison School District’s Outbound Open Enrollment Increases to -1206 (-836 net out)

Michael Barry (PDF):

MMSD financial results for 2012-13 were favorable in comparison to budget expectations. The General Fund Balance, which was budgeted to decrease by ($5.5) million to support several one-time expenditures, actually decreased by just ($1.6) million. This puts the District’s balance sheet in a stronger opening position for 2013-14. The primary reason for the favorable result was an unbudgeted revenue influx of $3.2 million from Medicaid reimbursements.
However, the Food Service Fund struggled in 2012-13, recording a net loss of $386,000 on total revenues of $10.5 million. Labor cost overages were the primary cause of the net loss. The Business Office is working closely with the Food Service department on budgetary expectations for 2013-14. Overall participation in the program decreased slightly last year.
Open enrollment results show 370 students enrolling in to MMSD from elsewhere and 1,206 MMSD residents enrolling outside of the district. The net out is -836. (Enrollment background data & District statistics)
(Last year, MMSD had 379 students enrolling in and 1,118 enrolling out, for a net out of -739.)

Much more on open enrollment here.
Suburban Districts vs. Madison, 1995-2012.
Madison School District: Private/Parochial, Open Enrollment Leave, Open Enrollment Enter, Home Based Parent Surveys (June, 2009).

Disabilities create hurdles to open enrollment

Emily Kram, via a kind reader email:

With a sigh, Michelle Janz put a hand to her face and flipped through a folder of letters, memos and official forms. She shook her head over the mass of paperwork accumulated in eight months.
Nex a sigh, Michelle Janz put a hand to her face and flipped through a folder of letters, memos and official forms. She shook her head over the mass of paperwork accumulated in eight months.
“It shouldn’t be this hard,” she said. “We should have a choice like any other student.”
Janz, who lives in Superior, had spent the better part of a year applying for open enrollment, facing rejection and working through the appeals process. Her goal was to enroll her son, Travis, in another school district.
During the 2012-13 school year, Travis was a special education student at Superior High School. Like a typical 17-year-old, Janz said, Travis loves computers. He also enjoys skateboarding and spending time with his friends.
“Everybody knows Travis,” Janz said. “He loves school, and he loves being around kids.”

Much more on open enrollment, here.

Madison School District Open Enrollment Leavers Report, 2012-13

Superintendent Jane Belmore (700K PDF):

For the 2012-13 school year, MMSD has 1041 leavers and 281 enterers for a net enrollment decrease of 760 students due to open enrollment.
Of the 1041 leavers for 2012-13, 663 were “continuing leavers” who open enrolled outside of the District in previous years. The other 378 leavers left MMSD for the first time this year.
The increasing number of total leavers in recent years results from many consecutive years of increases in first-time leavers who subsequently become continuing leavers.
First time leavers increased from 333 to 378 from 2011-12 to 2012-13.
About 40% of the MMSD residents who open enroll outside of the district for the first time never attended MMSD and could be considered “stayers” for other districts.
A 2009 survey of open enrollment leavers showed that personal preference led to about one third of the decisions to leave, including concerns about safety, drugs and negative peer pressure. Proximity to other districts’ schools accounts for about a quarter of the reasons for attending another district. About a quarter were related to curricular, after school or virtual programs.

Related: Much more on “open enrollment”, here, and the Madison School District’s enrollment forecast (PDF).

Open enrollment is a game changer, but not for everyone

Alan Borsuk:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in his education plan, unveiled recently, that if he is elected, he will push for policies that will allow low-income and special-needs students “to attend public schools outside of their school district that have the capacity to serve them.”
This is part of a broader Romney plan to expand school choice, including promoting charter schools, voucher programs for private schools and virtual schools.
The idea caught my eye because we already have open enrollment, as we call it around here, on a large scale. And not much attention has been paid to its impact.
Milwaukee has gotten a lot of attention since the early 1990s for its private school voucher program, arguably the most important and far-reaching such effort in the country, at least until now. But the Milwaukee area can also been seen as an important laboratory for open enrollment.

Notes and links: Open Enrollment & Madison School District: Private/Parochial, Open Enrollment Leave, Open Enrollment Enter, Home Based Parent Surveys.

Viewpoints: Open enrollment unlocks path to choice Share

Gloria Romero and Larry Sand:

Getting any school choice legislation passed in California is a daunting task. The Legislature, in thrall to the teachers unions, is unwilling to disrupt the moribund status quo, which has led to disastrous consequences for public education. But the Open Enrollment Act has jumped through various legal and political challenges and miraculously survived, though efforts are under way to have it weakened.
Included in California’s 2010 sweeping reform package, the Open Enrollment Act has received far less attention than its sister statute, the “parent trigger” law. But while the parent trigger provision requires the signatures of 50 percent of parents at a school designated as chronically underperforming by the California Department of Education, the open enrollment provision requires only one. It is efficient, simple and unencumbered by the political obstacles that have undermined parent empowerment under the parent trigger law – one parent can rise to the challenge and demand change.

Madison School District Open Enrollment Enterers & Leavers

Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Under Open Enrollment, students may transfer into an MMSD school from another district or transfer out to another district – “enterers” versus “leavers.” This report focuses primarily on Open Enrollment leavers. There is also some discussion of the net effect of Open Enrollment, which is the number of leavers minus the number of enterers. This report does not discuss students attending private/parochial schools or home schooled students.
For the 2011-12 school year, MMSD has 913 leavers and 213 enterers for a
net effect of 700 students choosing to attend a district other than MMSD.
Of the 913 leavers for 2011-12, 580 were “continuing leavers” meaning they open enrolled outside of the District in previous years. That leaves 333 first time leavers for the current school year.
The growing number of leavers in recent years is the result of a cumulative increase over several years – those who are continuing leavers are still included in our counts in the following years. Because of this, it will take time to reverse the net number of leavers and first time leavers are of particular interest.
First time leavers increased only slightly from 2010-11 to 2011-12. If we discount the one-time bump for the first class of 4K, the number of first time leavers went down for the first time since at least 2005-06.
It is also important to note that nearly half of the students that are leavers never attended MMSD and could be considered “stayers” for other districts.
In terms of why people leave the district, we rely on a 2009 survey of leavers.

Charts (10MB PDF).

More time for open enrollment

Matthew DeFour:

Wisconsin’s public school open enrollment period begins Monday, and for the first time, families will have three months to decide whether and where to enroll their students outside of their home school district.
For the Madison School District, the extra time could mean more families choosing to leave for other districts or virtual schools, though Superintendent Dan Nerad said it’s too early to know what the affect will be.
“By the nature that there’s an open window, that’s likely to happen for us as well as other districts around the state,” Nerad said.
Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation last week extending the official open enrollment period from three weeks in February to three months. Applications must be completed by April 30.
Proponents of the change, including school choice advocates and the virtual school industry, tout open enrollment as giving parents and students more control of their educational options.

Related: Madison School District Outbound Open Enrollment Applications 2010-2011 School Year; As of 3/18/2010.

Wisconsin Senate to take up Open Enrollment schools bill Tuesday

Jason Stein:

The state Senate will take up a bill Tuesday to rewrite the open enrollment law governing when students can transfer out of their home district into another district.
The bill would allow students and parents more time to request a move to a district outside their own. It would require students’ home districts to share details about any discipline problems with the outside district.
The bill has ping-ponged back and forth between the Senate and Assembly for the last year as the two houses have worked to agree on amendments.
The Senate action will come amid a busy day at the Capitol, with opponents to Walker expected to deliver more than 700,000 signatures seeking to force a recall election against him.
Supporters said the open enrollment bill would help students struggling in one district move into another one where they can thrive. Opponents argue the legislation could harm some school districts by siphoning off students to other districts, including virtual schools that rely on the Internet to help teach students in their own homes.

Open Enrollment Changing the Face of Wisconsin Public Schools

Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, via a kind Senn Brown email:

In 2010-11, a record number of students took advantage of Wisconsin’s open enrollment program to attend school elsewhere than in their own district. The 34,498 participants was 8.1% higher than in 2010 and nearly five times higher than in 2001. Open enrollment numbers varied widely, with 13 districts experiencing net outflows of more than 10% of their student populations and 34 with net inflows of similar magnitude. These findings are detailed in SchoolFacts11, the annual reference book from the Wisconsin Tax- payers Alliance (WISTAX) that provides, for every school district in the state, a wide range of information on enrollment, finance, staffing, and test scores.
In 2010-11, 4.0% of Wisconsin’s public school students attended a district other than their own. Dover (26.2%) and South Shore (23.0%) both had net outflows (students leaving less those coming) of more than 20%. Eleven other districts (Florence, Mercer, Neosho, Palmyra-Eagle, Richfield, Stockbridge, Twin Lakes, Washington-Caldwell, Wheatland, Winter, and Wonewoc-Union Center) had net outflows of over 10%.

Related: Madison School District 2009 outbound open enrollment survey. Much more, here.
Student counts drive a District’s tax and spending authority.

Douglas County, Colorado school voucher hearings wrap up; What happens when citizens lose faith in government? 2011 Madison School District Open Enrollment Data (4.73% Leave)

Elbert County News:

Closing arguments in the case challenging the Douglas County School District’s voucher program ended three days of hearings that could halt the program in its infancy.
A standing-room-only crowd listened in Denver District Court while a legal team from the American Civil Liberties Union faced off against a team that included the Colorado Attorney General’s Office to decide the fate of the district’s school choice scholarship program.
Both sides agreed that any decision from Denver District Court Judge Michael Martinez will likely face an appeal, regardless of the ruling.
“There will be an appeal either way,” said Michael McCarthy, a plaintiff attorney representing the Taxpayers for Public Education. “What (the school district has) done is press the envelope as far as they can. For those interested in preserving public education in this state, they have got in their face as far as they can.”

More from the Wall Street Journal: Wall Street Journal:

In a bold bid to revamp public education, a suburban district south of Denver has begun handing out vouchers that use public money to help its largely affluent residents send their children to private and church-based schools. The Douglas County School District experiment is noteworthy because nearly all voucher programs nationally aim to help children who are poor, have special needs or are trapped in failing public schools. Douglas County, by contrast, is one of the most affluent in the U.S., with household income nearly double the national median, and has schools ranked among the best in Colorado. What do you think? Should vouchers only be used with lower-income students? Should they never be used? Do they violate the constitution?

Chrystia Freeland:

One answer comes from Ivan Krastev, a Bulgarian political scientist. One of Mr. Krastev’s special interests is in the resilience of authoritarian regimes in the 21st century. To understand why they endure, Mr. Krastev has turned to the thinking of the economist Albert O. Hirschman, who was born in Berlin in 1915 and eventually became one of America’s seminal thinkers.
In 1970, while at Harvard, Mr. Hirschman wrote an influential meditation on how people respond to the decline of firms, organizations and states. He concluded that there are two options: exit — stop shopping at the store, quit your job, leave your country; and voice — speak to the manager, complain to your boss, or join the political opposition.
For Mr. Krastev, this idea — the trade-off between exit and voice — is the key to understanding what he describes as the “perverse” stability of Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia. For all the prime minister’s bare-chested public displays of machismo, his version of authoritarianism, in Mr. Krastev’s view, is “vegetarian.”
“It is fair to say that most Russians today are freer than in any other period of their history,” he wrote in an essay published this spring. But Mr. Krastev argues that it is precisely this “user-friendly” character of Mr. Putin’s authoritarianism that makes Russia stable. That is because Russia’s relatively porous dictatorship effectively encourages those people who dislike the regime most, and have the most capacity to resist it, to leave the country. They choose exit rather than voice, and the result is the death of political opposition: “Leaving the country in which they live is easier than reforming it.”

Madison School District May, 2011 Strategic Plan Update with Action Plans 1.8MB PDF

Administrators Lobbying Against Wisconsin Open Enrollment Expansion

John Forester and a kind reader, via email

The SAA’s launching a last-ditch lobbying effort to try to limit the pending bill that will expand the open enrollment period. My transcription of the video alert:
Good afternoon SAA members, this is your lobbyist John Forester coming to you on Thursday afternoon, April the 21st, with a priority legislative alert on Senate Bill 2, having to do with the open enrollment application period. I need you to contact the members of the Assembly Education Committee in support of the SAA’s position on Senate Bill 2.
Senate Bill 2 was amended and passed in the Senate earlier this legislative session. The bill had a hearing in the Assembly Education Committee on April the 7th, and could be voted on by the committee as early as next Tuesday, April the 26th. The SAA is seeking to amend the bill. I have provided for you my testimony on the bill, as well as a Legislative Council memo explaining how the bill was amended in the Senate. You can find contact information for the Committee members on the left side of our website.
Now let me tell you this flat and straight. Some version of this bill is going to pass this legislative session. We are simply trying to get the bill amended to make it less objectionable. Now let me give you some information specifically regarding the bill. If adopted, Senate Bill 2 would expand the open enrollment application period from 3 weeks to the 3 full months of February, March and April. As amended, Senate Bill 2 would also create an alternate open enrollment application process that would allow a parent of a pupil wishing to attend a nonresident school district to apply to that school district if the pupil satisfies at least one of seven criteria established in the bill. Now under this alternate process, applications may be submitted outside the 3 month open enrollment window. The primary focus of our opposition to Senate Bill 2 is the last of the seven criteria in the alternate application process and it reads as follows: “The parent of the pupil and the nonresident school board agree that attending school in the nonresident district is in the best interests of the pupil.” Now because the nonresident school district, assuming it has room for more students, has a financial incentive to accept new open enrollment students, this provision of the bill essentially creates the potential for year-round open enrollment, and I know that I’ve received lots of phone calls from SAA members saying that that’s exactly what this would do. This provision would also provide difficult students and parents with one more weapon to manipulate school districts into making decisions favorable to the student and the parents.
Now we have requested that the committee solve this problem with that criteria number 7 either by deleting the 7th criteria listed in the alternate application process or by changing “nonresident school board” to “resident school board” in the bill language that was referenced earlier. Now I have been told by Assembly Education Committee members that the only way to get the bill changed to the way that we would like is for local school districts to contact the committee members and make the case. I’m doing all that I can on this bill, folks, I need your help and I need it now. So again I’m asking you, especially if the legislators that are members of the Assembly Education Committee are your legislators, please contact them and contact them as soon as possible and ask for this change in the bill. Again, some version of the bill is going to pass, what we want to do is to make the bill a little bit better for us. Again, what it really comes down to is: our response to this legislative alert is going to determine how successfully we can reshape the bill. Again thank you very much for everything you do on a daily basis for the kids here in this state. Thank you for your support and contact those legislators. This is your lobbyist John Forester signing off and Happy Easter.
[emphasis added]
It’s interesting to see the true motivations and conflicts of interest openly expressed. Now who represents the interests of children and their parents, again?

Much more on Wisconsin’s Open Enrollment program here.

Wisconsin Legislature mulls changes to open enrollment program

Matthew DeFour:

As families begin to enroll their students Monday in virtual schools or neighboring districts through the state’s open enrollment process, the Legislature is debating changes to the program.
The Senate approved a bill this week that would extend the enrollment period from three weeks in February to three months, starting this year. The bill still needs approval in the Assembly and the governor’s signature.
The changes would make it easier for parents who want to enroll their students in public schools outside their own district, but may not be thinking about that decision in February, said Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, who introduced the bill.
Democrats opposed the changes, however, saying the wider window will cause administrative hassles and uncertainty for school districts about proper staffing levels as they try to budget for the next school year.

Much more on open enrollment, here.

Proposed Changes in Madison’s Open Enrollment Policy

Dylan Pauly:

The attached proposed changes to Policy 4025 reflect the amendments to Wis. Stat. §118.51, which now permits a nonresident district to consider whether a student has been habitually truant for purposes of allowing open enrollment into the non-resident district. This change applies to students who lived in the district, moved outside of the district boundaries, and are seeking to stay in the district as a nonresident student. A second change allows a district to prohibit a nonresident student from attending district schools after an initial acceptance if the student is habitually truant during either semester of the current school year. The open enrollment period begins February 7, 2011 and ends February 25, 2011.

Much more on open enrollment, here.
Wisconsin’s 2011-2012 open enrollment application period is February 7, 2011 to February 25, 2011.

Some places’ integration seats vanish: Aid formula makes big players prefer open enrollment to 220

Amy Hetzner:

Some of the biggest players in the Chapter 220 program will not accept new minority students for the coming school year, a move likely to continue the trend of declining participation in the school integration program.
School boards for Elmbrook, Menomonee Falls and Wauwatosa, which collectively enrolled more than a quarter of all Chapter 220 students last school year, have voted to not open up any new seats to the program in the 2011-’12 school year.
The action comes as districts have increasingly favored the state’s open enrollment public school choice program as a way to attract out-of-district students – and increased state aid – to their schools.
“The reason is largely financially related,” Elmbrook School District Superintendent Matt Gibson said.
While the money that districts collect for open enrollment students comes on top of the revenue limits allowed by the state, Chapter 220 aid does not raise extra revenue for school districts. Instead, the state aid that districts receive through Chapter 220 goes toward lowering district property taxes.

Virtual makeover: Open enrollment, online schools alter education landscape

Susan Troller

Eighth-grader James Roll enjoys learning math, science, English and social studies through an online school that lets him learn at his own pace using a computer at home. But he says he likes the art and music classes at what he calls “real school” — Kromrey Middle School in Middleton — even more.
James is a pioneer of sorts, and so is the Middleton-Cross Plains School District, when it comes to computer-based, or virtual, learning.
This year, Middleton launched its 21st Century eSchool. It’s one of just a dozen virtual schools in Wisconsin, and the second in Dane County; last year the McFarland School District became the sponsoring district for the Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA), which opened for the 2009-2010 school year with about 400 students and this year counts twice that many.
The two schools share several key elements: They offer a broad range of online courses, beginning at the kindergarten level and continuing all the way through high school, employ licensed Wisconsin teachers to oversee online learning, and require that students participate in mandatory testing each year.
Hughes’ obvious irritation was fueled by recent open enrollment figures showing that Madison has lost more than 150 students to McFarland, both to the Wisconsin Virtual Academy and to McFarland bricks-and-mortar schools.
Hughes expanded on his frustration in a recent piece he wrote for his Ed Hughes School Blog: “Since we have to send about $6,800 per student to districts that receive our open enrollers, this means that we’ll be cutting a (perhaps figurative) check in excess of $1,000,000 to the McFarland School District.”
But McFarland Superintendent Scott Brown says his district is only getting $300 to $350 per student per year from the online school and says the Wisconsin Virtual Academy is not necessarily poaching students from the traditional classroom. “Schools like WIVA have brought a lot of students who may not have been under the tent of public education into school districts like ours.

More options for our children is great for them, parents, business, our communities and taxpayers.
With respect to Ed’s post, providing alternative models at what appears to be substantially lower cost than Madison’s annual $15K per student expenditures is good for all of us, particularly the students.
The financial aspects of the open enrollment and alternative education models gets to the heart of whether traditional districts exist to promote adult employment or student education.
The Khan Academy is worth a visit.. Standing in front of new education models and more choices for our children is a losing proposition. Just yesterday, Apple, Inc. announced the end of hard drives for volume computers with the introduction of a flash memory based notebook. Certainly, hard drive manufacturers will be fighting over a smaller market, but, new opportunities are emerging. Some will take advantage of them, others won’t. Education is no different.

Madison School District 2010-2011 Enrollment Report, Including Outbound Open Enrollment (3.11%)

136K PDF

A few numbers:
Total District Enrollment 24,796 (The Wisconsin DPI enrollment number for Madison is 25,395).
Open Enrollment Leavers: 772
Open Enrollment Enterers: 175
Much more on outbound open enrollment here.
Tax & spending authority are largely based on enrollment.
The most recent 2010-2011 budget document indicates total planned spending of $373,157,148, which yields $15049.08 per student.

Memo to the Media on Open Enrollment: When We (The Madison School Board) Unanimously Reject a Proposal, That Means We Don’t Support It

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

The Board discussed the issue. Individual members expressed concern about the 3% cap, suggesting that this wasn’t the way for us to deal with the open enrollment issue. I was one of those who spoke against the proposal. The Board voted unanimously to support the other two proposed changes to WASB policy, but not the 3% cap. This amounted to a unanimous rejection of the 3% limit. (A video of the Board meeting can be found here. The WASB discussion begins about 48 minutes in.)
From the Board’s perspective, the endorsement of the proposal regarding financial stability wasn’t seen as one that had much bearing on our district. But we’d like support from other districts on our push for a fiscally neutral exchange of state dollars, and so we were willing to support proposals important to other districts, like this one, as a way of building a coalition for fresh consideration of open enrollment issues by the WASB.
The “financial stability” proposal certainly wasn’t intended by us as a dagger to the heart of the open enrollment policy; I don’t suppose that it was ever the intent of the legislators who supported the open enrollment statute that the policy could render school districts financially unstable.
The State Journal never reported that the Board rejected the 3% cap proposal. It ran letters to the editor on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday that all seemed premised on the assumption that we had in fact supported such a cap. The Wednesday letter said in part, “[T]he Madison School District’s answer to its shortcomings is to build a Berlin wall, preventing students from leaving.” From the Thursday letter, “Unfortunately, instead of looking inward to address the problems and issues causing flight from Madison schools, the School Board would rather maintain the status quo and use the coercive force of government to prevent its customers from fleeing for what they think is a better value.” From Friday’s letter: “So the way you stem the tide of students wanting to leave the Madison School District is to change the rules so that not so many can leave? That makes perfect Madison School Board logic.” (The State Journal also ran a letter to the editor on Friday that was more supportive of the district.)

Much more on outbound open enrollment and the Madison School Board here.
I’m glad Ed continues to write online. I continue to have reservations about the “financial stability” angle since it can be interpreted (assuming it becomes law…. what are the odds?) any way the Board deems necessary. Further, I agree with Ed that there are certainly more pressing matters at hand.

Madison School Board’s vote (to limit Outbound Open Enrollment) hurts kids — and the city

Chris Rickert:

Open enrollment allows students to go to schools outside their district. If “school choice” and “vouchers” are the buzz words popping into your head right now, you’re probably not alone. When the legislation passed in 1997, it was in the same ballpark as those two old Republican saws. Open enrollment supposedly introduces choice to the public education “marketplace,” forcing districts to compete and get better.
Democrats typically see such policies as the first step toward balkanizing the public schools into the haves and have-nots, when they should be a hallmark of a society in which any kid can become president.
Open enrollment has not shown a particularly good light on Madison in recent years. More kids have been transferring out than in, with the net loss last year 435 students. The resolution the school board passed Monday calls on the state to allow districts to limit the students that could leave under open enrollment “if the school board believes the fiscal stability of the district is threatened.”
Clearly, district leaders feel open enrollment is a fiscal threat; their analysis shows it created about a $2.7 million hole in the district budget last school year.

Much more on the Madison School District’s attempt to limit outbound open enrollment here.

Madison School District’s Attempt to Limit Outbound Open Enrollment, via a WASB Policy Recommendation

Fascinating: I don’t think this will help. The Madison School District 55K PDF:

WASB Policy Modifications Related to Open Enrollment Recommended changes to the current WASB resolution on open enrollment (Policy 3.77):
Current f.: The options for the districts to limit the number of students leaving the school district under the open enrollment program, if the school board believes that number is large enough to threaten the viability of the district.
Proposed f.: The option for the districts to limit the number of students leaving the school district under the open enrollment program, if the school board believes the fiscal stability of the district is threatened.
Rationale – As school districts are confronted by a combination of revenue limits and declining state aid, fiscal issues are overriding attention paid to the educational programs offered to our children. The law originally limited open enrollment transfers to 3% of a district’s total enrollment and was designed to provide parents with enrollment options for their students.
Now, districts lack the flexibility or capacity to adjust to large scale student population shifts. Districts already fiscally weakened by nearly two decades of revenue limits, and more recently, cuts to general state aids – particularly in small, rural districts – are left with the options of dissolving the district, or Draconian cuts to the educational program.
Current i.: The WASB supports a clarification in state statutes to limit the number of students enrolling in nonreSident school districts to 10 percent of the resident district membership.
Proposed i.: The WASB supports limiting the number of students enrolling in nonresident school districts to 3 percent of the resident district membership.
Rationale – The law originally capped open enrollment to 3% of a district’s total enrollment. This change returns control of open enrollment transfers to locally elected school board members. If districts choose to limit open enrollment transfers to less than 3%, correspondingly, a district would have to use the same method/policy for accepting students through open enrollment. **********
Proposed i: The WASB supports a fiscally neutral exchange of state dollars in open enrollment transfers.
Rationale – Current law requires that a sending district pay the receiving school district approximately $6,500. The $6,500 payment is the estimated statewide cost of educating a student; however, in practice this amount doesn’t really reflect the costs of educating a student in the receiving district, or takes into account the loss of revenue to the sending district.
The law could be changed by lowering the dollar amount to $5,000, or the amount of state aid per pupil received by the sending district in the prior year, whichever is less.
While the WASB supports public school open enrollment, participation in the program should not be a fiscal hardship. The current state/nation fiscal climate and local economic circumstances confronted by school districts, has dramatically changed the fiscal equation and requires modifications to the state’s open enrollment law.
Approved by the School Board of: Madison Metropolitan School District Date: 9/13/10
kt:4tf,s;:.C~ Signed: (Board President)

Related: Madison School Board Discussion: Private/Parochial, Open Enrollment Leave, Open Enrollment Enter, Home Based Parent Surveys.

The essential question: do these proposed open enrollment changes benefit students, or adult employment?

Madison School District Outbound Open Enrollment Applications 2010-2011 School Year; As of 3/18/2010

Complete Report 36k PDF, via a kind reader:

The pattern of an increasing number of open enrollment transfer applications continued this spring. As of March, 18, 2010 there were 765 unique resident MMSD students applying to attend non-MMSD districts and schools. The ratio of number of leaver applications to enterer applications is now 5:1.
It is important to note that not all applications result in students actually changing their district or school of enrollment. For example, for the 2009-10 school year although 402 new open enrollment students were approved by both MMSD and the non-resident districts to attend the non-resident district, only 199 actually were enrolled in the non-resident district on the third Friday September 2009 membership count date. Still, the trend has been upward in the number of students leaving the district.

Related: 2009 Madison School District Outbound Open Enrollment Parent Survey.
A school district’s student population affects its tax & spending authority.

Parents love it, but Wisconsin’s open enrollment option puts school districts on edge during tough economic times

Appleton Post-Crescent:

Zachary Dupland was a kindergartner at Menasha’s Gegan Elementary School when his parents split up. His dad, Eric Dupland, moved to Appleton. His mom, Tauna Carson, moved to Neenah.
As part of their custody agreement, however, they opted to keep Zachary, now a third-grader, at a school in Menasha by applying for open enrollment.
His parents felt no reason existed to uproot him from his friends and teachers, at least until middle school.
“We wanted to avoid any more dramatic changes in his life,” Eric Dupland said.
“This option has been wonderful for us,” Carson said. “It has allowed us to do just what we need to do for Zachary.”

Virtual Schools, Students with IEPs, and Wisconsin Open Enrollment

Chan Stroman:

Virtual schooling can be an educational choice with particular benefits for some students with disabilities. The recent study “Serving Students with Disabilities in State-level Virtual K-12 Public School Programs” by Eve Müller, Ph.D., published in September 2009 by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE)’s Project Forum, and funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, surveyed state education agencies nationwide regarding their virtual K-12 public school programs:

Eleven states described one or more benefits associated with serving students with disabilities in virtual K-12 public school programs. These include:

Wisconsin School Open Enrollment Period Begins 2/1, Ends 2/19


Parents wishing to send their children to a different school district next year will be able to participate in the open enrollment program the first three weeks of February.
From Feb. 1 through Feb. 19 parents can apply for their children to attend a public school other than the one in which they live. Last school year, more than 28,000 students participated.
Participation in the program has grown each year since it began in 1998 when just 2,500 were enrolled.

Learn more about full and part time Wisconsin open enrollment here.

Wisconsin Open Enrollment Study

Amy Hetzner:

Spending more, adding extracurricular activities and increasing the percentage of students deemed advanced on state tests could help Wisconsin school districts that want to attract more students through the state’s open enrollment program.
Those are some of the main conclusions of a new study examining student transfers between 2003 and 2007 under the state’s public school choice program. [Open Enrollment SIS links.]
“There’s a lot of surveys saying parents want this or they want that, but when they actually have to take their kid and drive them to school, that reveals what they really want in a school district,” said David Welsch, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and lead author of the study, which is slated for publication in the Economics of Education Review.
Under the state’s open enrollment program, which has been in effect for more than a decade and now serves more than 28,000 students, students can attend any public school district in Wisconsin so long as there is room and they provide their own transportation. State aid – nearly $6,500 this school year – accompanies each open enrollment transfer.
One of the most striking findings in the recent study was that students were more likely to transfer from districts with higher property values and lower tax rates to districts that spend more per pupil. For every $100 difference in spending per student, a higher-spending district could expect about 1.7% more incoming transfers.

Wisconsin Open Enrollment: Part Time / Full Time.

Madison School District: Private/Parochial, Open Enrollment Leave, Open Enrollment Enter, Home Based Parent Surveys

Kurt Kiefer, MMSD Chief Information Officer [1.3MB PDF]:

This memo is a summary of the results from the surveys completed during the past school year with various parent groups whose children reside within the MMSD attendance area but receive certain alternative education options. Also included are results of the survey conducted with non-residents who attend MMSD schools via the Open Enrollment program (Le., Open Enrollment Enter).

Groups were surveys representing households whose students were enrolled in one of four different educational settings: MMSD resident students attending private/parochial schools, MMSD resident students attending other public schools via the Open Enrollment program, non-resident students attending MMSD schools via the Open Enrollment program, and MMSD resident students provided home based instruction.

The surveys were conducted between December 2008 and February 2009. The surveys were mailed to households or they could complete the survey online. Two mailings were conducted – the initial mailing to all households and a second to non-respondents as a reminder request. Total group sizes and responses are provided below.

This document will be discussed at Monday evening’s Madison School Board meeting.

Madison Schools to Deny Open Enrollment Applications Based on Income?

Seth Jovaag, via a kind reader’s email:

In February 2008, the Madison school board – facing mounting legal pressure – overturned a policy that allowed the district to deny transfer requests based on race. Before that, white students were routinely told they couldn’t transfer. Madison was the only district in the state with such a policy, which aimed to limit racial inequalities throughout the district, said district spokesman Ken Syke.
With that policy gone, Madison saw a nearly 50 percent increase in students asking to transfer, from 435 to 643.
Madison superintendent Daniel Nerad notes that Madison’s numbers had been steadily increasing for years. But he acknowledged that the policy change likely explains some of this year’s jump.
“I think we do see some effect of that, but I’m not suggesting all of it comes from that, because frankly we don’t know,” he said.
Still, Nerad has clearly taken notice. Given the new numbers, he plans to ask state lawmakers to allow Madison to deny future requests based on family income levels, rather than race, to prevent disparities from further growing between Madison and its suburbs.
Other districts that border Madison – including Monona Grove, Middleton and McFarland – are seeing more transfer requests from Madison this year, too.
“The change Madison made … that certainly increased the application numbers,” said McFarland’s business director, Jeff Mahoney.
In addition, Verona school board member Dennis Beres said he suspects many Madison parents are trying to transfer their kids from the chronically overcrowded Aldo Leopold elementary school, which is just two miles northeast of Stoner Prairie Elementary in Fitchburg.

Fascinating. I would hope that the Madison School District would pursue students with high academic standards rather than simply try, via legislative influence and lobbying, to prevent them from leaving…. The effects of that initiative may not be positive for the City of Madison’s tax base.
Related: 2009/2010 Madison Open Enrollment applications. Much more on open enrollment here.

Wisconsin school open enrollment starts February 2, 2009


Wisconsin parents who want to send their children to a school outside the district in which they live can start applying Feb. 2.
The open enrollment period for next school year ends three weeks later on Feb. 20.
The program has grown in popularity since it started in the fall of 1998. Only about 2,400 students participated that school year. But last year, nearly 26,000 did.
Parents interested in enrolling their children are encouraged to do so online at the Department of Public Instruction’s Web site. Parents will be notified April 10 about whether their request has been approved or denied.

Madison School Board Discusses its Open Enrollment Policy

One of the items on Monday evening’s (12 January, 2009) agenda includes the District’s Open Enrollment Policy [344K PDF]. Pages 5 to 7 discuss policies covering those transfering out of the Madison school district. The proposed policy change (page 6) appears to eliminate the rejection of requests based on race, an issue that was addressed in recent legal actions. Virtual schools have been another controversial aspect of open enrollment.

Madison School District Facing Class-Action Lawsuit Over Open Enrollment


he Madison Metropolitan School District is facing a federal class-action lawsuit.
An East High School parent claims a request to transfer her daughter out of the district was been denied based on race.
The class-action lawsuit, filed in federal court on Wednesday, claims the Madison school district discriminated against a white, female student who wanted to transfer from East High School using open enrollment.
At the time, in the 2006-2007 school year, the transfer request was denied because it would increase the racial imbalance in the district. It was the district’s policy at the time, but that policy was changed earlier this year after a Supreme Court ruling involving school districts in Seattle and Louisville, WISC-TV reported.
“I believe this district had a policy that was absolutely consistent with state law,” Madison Schools Superintendent Daniel Nerad said. “When there was a legal decision by the highest court of the land… that was no longer a factor. I believe the district responded very responsibly in making a change in the policy.”

Much more on open enrollment here.

Andy Hall has more:

In the 2006-07 school year, Madison was the only one of the state’s 426 school districts to deny transfer requests because of race, rejecting 126 white students’ applications to enroll in other districts, including online schools, records show.

Districts weighing costs, benefits of Open Enrollment

Lisa Sink:

The state’s open enrollment program has helped many Milwaukee-area school districts shore up their budgets, add diversity and keep neighborhood schools open amid declining residential enrollment. Ten years after the program’s creation, the number of students using it to attend the public school district of their choice – if that district has space – has surged from 2,464 to more than 23,000.
But at least two area districts are asking if there is a tipping point at which districts can accept too many nonresident students. When does it hurt a district financially to fill its schools with open enrollment students? And what is the full impact – good and bad – of the program on district budgets, buildings and programs?
The Wauwatosa School District commissioned what it believes is the area’s first financial model trying to pin down when, if ever, it makes more sense to close schools than increase the percentage of nonresident students to fill classrooms. And now Elmbrook School Board members are pushing for a similar study, as a divided board voted recently to cut nearly in half the number of new open enrollment seats that will be allowed next fall.

Part Time Wisconsin Open Enrollment

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI):

Wisconsin high school students may apply to attend one or two courses in nonresident school districts, while remaining enrolled in their resident school districts for the majority of their classes.
No later than one week before the start of the course, the resident school district is required to notify the student if the application is denied (notification is not required for approval).
The resident school district may deny a student’s application only for the following reasons:

  • the cost of the course creates an undue financial
  • the course conflicts with the individualized education program (IEP) for a student who needs special education.

No later than one week before the start of the course, the resident school district must also notify the student if the course does not meet the high school graduation requirements in the resident school district (although the student may attend the course even if it does not meet the high school graduation requirements.)

Wisconsin Open Enrollment Closed to White Madison Students

Andy Hall covers a potent issue:

If he lived anywhere else in Wisconsin, Zachary Walton, 12, wouldn’t have this problem.
If he were black, Asian, Hispanic, or American Indian, Zachary wouldn’t have this problem, either.
But he’s in Madison, where growing numbers of white students are discovering that because of their race, the state’s open enrollment program actually is closed.
“I feel like I’m left out,” said Zachary, who wants to attend a public online school — one like his big brother Daniel, 15, enjoys.
Last week, when most students across Wisconsin began a new school year, Zachary began his second year of home schooling in his family’s East Side apartment.
Madison officials, supported by the state Department of Public Instruction, have ruled that Zachary and 125 other students living in the district must stay put this year in the name of racial integration.
The policy is enforced even for dozens of students, such as Zachary, who don’t attend public school but instead go to private schools or receive home schooling.
Laura and Mike Starks, Zachary’s mother and stepfather, believe that Madison and DPI are going overboard. And that it’s depriving Zachary of one-on-one attention needed for him to catch up academically.
“If we had the money, we would have aggressively fought this,” Mike Starks said.

Much more on Wisconsin’s Open Enrollment Law here.
Gloria Ladson-Billings:

The headline in Sunday’s paper – “You can’t transfer, white kids told” – could just as easily have been “School district refuses to re-segregate” or “School district complies with spirit of Brown decision.” Of course, that would not be nearly as provocative as the one designed to sell more papers and allow members of the white community to believe they have fewer privileges than families of color.
School district officials are not ignorant. They know that if every transfer request is granted, some of our schools will become even more racially segregated and inequitable.
Also, it is interesting that your story focuses on the 140 denials rather than the 286 acceptances and, more specifically, on the 77 out of 140 denials that used racial balance as a reason for the denial.
Incidentally, my own daughter was denied a transfer in 1999. I guess if she were white we could have had a feature story about it.

Charles Staeven:

Madison’s enrollment policy racist
I was appalled by the front page of Sunday’s State Journal. Madison, the supposed bastion of progressive thought, has the only school district in the state that is working under a racist policy when it comes to open enrollment.
Even worse, District Administrator Art Rainwater believes his hands are tied. His “we are powerless” statements when facing a blatantly in-your-face racist policy indicate poor leadership.
Please recall Dr. King’s message that it’s not the color of one’s skin, and I believe he meant any color. Come on, get out of the kids’ way!

Open Enrollment Gives Special Students More Options

Amy Hetzner:

Middle school isn’t an easy time for anybody, but it was especially difficult for Jordan Johnson.
His fellow students teased him about the cane he used, and his teachers frequently forgot to provide worksheets and other materials in the large type he needed because of a progressive vision loss called retinitis pigmentosa. He would fall behind and frequently lose work, but his parents wouldn’t learn of his problems until quarter grades came out, said his mother, Sally.
That ended when he transferred to the Waukesha School District, under the state’s open enrollment program, to use the district’s virtual high school, iQ Academies at Wisconsin, which allows students to attend classes via computers set up in their home.
“Ever since, I’ve been getting pretty good grades,” said Jordan, 16, whose family moved to Hudson recently.

A Look at Wisconsin’s Open Enrollment


District size and peer test scores appear to be factors in student-family decisions on where to attend school under Wisconsin’s open enrollment program. These are two major findings of a new report from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX). WISTAX is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to public-policy research and citizen education.
Started in 1998-99, Wisconsin’s open enrollment program grew nearly 40% per year from 1999 through 2005. In 2004-05 the program had 18,215 participants, or about 2.1% of all state students.
While many factors can affect open enrollment decisions, WISTAX found the state’s smallest districts (excluding virtual school students) accounted for 46% of open enrollment participants but only 25% of all students. Less than 12% of open enrollment participants were from the largest districts, also representing a quarter of all students.

Milwaukee Loses Big Under Open Enrollment

Tom Kertscher:

During the first six years of the program, the analysis found, 15 suburban districts each earned more than $1 million in extra state aid because they gained more students than they lost through open enrollment transfers.
MPS, meanwhile, lost more than $32 million.
Four other districts – Racine Unified, Waukesha, Oconomowoc and Kewaskum – each lost more than $1 million.

DPI Open Enrollment Hearing

Wisconsin DPI (PDF):

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction will conduct a hearing Aug. 29 at the agency headquarters in Madison to take public testimony on a change in administrative rules affecting the open enrollment program. The hearing will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. in Room 041 of the GEF 3 Building, 125 South Webster Street, Madison.


Ongoing Wisconsin Literacy Legislation Litigation…. Mind the Governor’s Mulligans

Mitchell Schmidt:

The Legislature argues Act 20 is the mechanism that empowers the state’s GOP-controlled budget committee to directly fund the literacy programs with dollars already approved in the state’s biennial budget, which Evers signed last summer. The committee has not yet allocated the $50 million in state funds.

“Act 100, as passed by the Legislature, does not set aside, authorize, or require the expenditure of any funds,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, it allows (the budget committee) to move the $50 million appropriated and earmarked in the budget bill to DPI.”

Because the bill was improperly vetoed, the budget committee cannot allocate the funds set aside in the budget for DPI’s new literacy programs, attorneys continue.

A memo from legislative attorneys notes the legislation “creates appropriations” for DPI’s new literacy office created under Act 20.

In a partial veto message to SB 971 on Feb. 29, Evers wrote that he struck portions of the bill because he objected to “overly complicating the allocation of funding related to literacy programs in Wisconsin by creating multiple appropriations for what could be accomplished with one.”

The governor also noted that he removed from the bill a “proposed appropriation structure” that would have repealed spending in 2028. Evers said the change creates additional flexibility “to invest in literacy programs for as long as the state has funding available and as long as decisionmakers invest in improving reading instruction in Wisconsin.”

Evers also wrote that he objected to signing a bill “with an apparent error” that specifically benefits private choice and independent charter schools by allowing those entities to be eligible for both grant funding and an ongoing increase in per pupil aid.

“As drafted, either intentionally or inadvertently, these entities could also receive an increase in per pupil funding because the bill does not contain standard provisions to exclude the newly created categorical appropriation from the indexing formula used to increase per pupil payments for private choice, independent charter, Special Needs Scholarship, and open enrollment students,” Evers wrote.

“Consequently, a private choice or independent charter school could receive both a grant for curriculum and an ongoing increase in per pupil funding,” the governor continued. “Contrastingly, no such funding increase would be provided to public school districts under the bill.”

The lawsuit is the second this week challenging the governor’s partial veto power.

Lawsuit PDF.


Corrinne Hess:

Evers’ partial veto, known as Act 100,  struck language allocating  money for school boards and charter school compliance in the early literacy program.

The lawsuit argues the changes “will allow DPI to treat any money directed to it as money that can be used by the Office of Literacy for any literacy program that office deems fit.”

On March 7, DPI submitted a request to the legislature to release the funds set aside in the biennial budget in accordance with the partially vetoed version of Act 100.

Lawyers argue the Joint Finance Committee “can’t be assured the money will be specifically spent on literacy programs created in Act 20.” 

“Instead, any money directed for that purpose might (but should not) be treated by DPI as well as its Office of Literacy as a blank check to do as it pleases, believing that it is under no statutory obligation to fund either a literacy coaching program or the grant program to offset the cost of purchasing new literacy curriculum,” the lawsuit states. 

Commentary. More.


Then Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Evers use of teacher mulligans to evade the Foundations of Reading early literacy content knowledge requirements (see also MTEL).

Leglislation and Reading: The Wisconsin Experience 2004-

The Education Competition Index: Quantifying competitive pressure in America’s 125 largest school districts

By Amber M. Northern and Michael J. Petrilli

We at Fordham view this as a healthy development, both because we believe in the fundamental right of parents to choose schools that work best for their children, and because of the large and ever-growing research literaturedemonstrating that competition improves achievement in traditional public schools. That “competitive effects” are largely positive should be seen as good news for everyone, as all of us should root for every sector of American education to improve. And it means that the whole “school choice versus improving traditional public schools” debate presents a false dichotomy; we can do both at the same time. Indeed, embracing school choice is a valuable strategy for improving traditional public schools.

Yet, despite the amount of attention that school choice receives in the media and among policy wonks, politicians, and adult interest groups, the extent of actual competition in major school districts is not well understood. We were curious: Which education markets in America are the most competitive? And which markets have education reformers and choice-encouragers neglected or failed to penetrate?

Those questions prompted this analysis, conducted by David Griffith and Jeanette Luna, Fordham’s associate director of research and research associate, respectively. The study seeks to quantify the extent to which competition is occurring by estimating the number of students enrolled in charter, private, and homeschools in each of the nation’s 125 largest school districts in spring 2020 and then dividing that sum by an estimate of a given district’s total student population (which includes students in traditional public schools). The resulting quotient—the report’s measure of the competition facing a district—is the combined market share of all non-district alternatives. While this is not a perfect measure (we can’t account for inter-district open enrollment, for instance), it is as good an estimate as current data allow.

Interesting “Wisconsin Watch” choice school coverage and a very recent public school article

Housed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Journalism School (along with Marquette University), the formation, affiliation(s) and funding sources of Wisconsin Watch have generated some controversy. Jim Piwowarczyk noted in November, 2022:

“Wisconsin Watch, a 501(c)(3) organization that disseminates news stories to many prominent media outlets statewide and is housed at the taxpayer-funded UW-Madison campus, has taken more than $1 million from an organization founded by George Soros over the years. Wisconsin Right Now discovered that the group is still prominently pushing out stories by a writer, Howard Hardee, who was dispatched to Wisconsin by a Soros-funded organization to work on “election integrity” stories and projects.” When major media outlets like WTM-TV and the Wisconsin State Journal run stories by Wisconsin Watch or Hardee, they fail to advise readers that he’s a fellow with a Soros-linked group. The group says that “hundreds” of news organizations have shared its stories over the years, giving them wide reach.

The Soros family also boasts significant influence over American media. An analysis from the Media Research Center found numerous media outlets employ journalists who also serve on boards of organizations that receive large amounts of funding from Soros.

More recently, and amidst Wisconsin’s biennial budget deliberations including many billions ($11.97B in 2019! [xlsx] excluding federal and other sources) for traditional government K-12 school districts, Wisconsin Watch writer Phoebe Petrovic posted a number of articles targeting choice (0.797%!! of $11.97B) schools:

May 5, 2023: Considering a Wisconsin voucher school? Here’s what parents of children who are LGBTQ+ or have a disability should know. (Focus on < 1% of redistributed state taxpayer spending).

May 5, 2023: False choice: Wisconsin taxpayers support schools that can discriminate. (Focus on < 1% of redistributed state taxpayer spending).

May 20, 2023: Federal, state law permit disability discrimination in Wisconsin voucher schools. (Focus on < 1% of redistributed state taxpayer spending).

## May 22, 2023 via a St Marcus Milwaukee sermon [transcript]- a church family whose incredible student efforts are worth a very deep dive. Compare this to Madison, where we’ve tolerated disastrous reading results for decades despite spending > $25k+/student!

## May 23, 2023: Curious (false claims) reporting on legacy k-12 schools, charter/voucher models and special education via Wisconsin coalition for education freedom. (Focus on 99% of redistributed state taxpayer spending).

May 31, 2023: ‘Unwanted and unwelcome’: Anti-LGBTQ+ policies common at Wisconsin voucher schools. (Focus on < 1% of redistributed state taxpayer spending).

May 31, 2023: Wisconsin students with disabilities often denied public school options via another Wisconsin Watch writer: Mario Koran. (Focus on 99% of redistributed state taxpayer spending).

Related: Governor Evers’ most recent budget proposals have attempted to kill One City Schools’ charter authorization…… and 2010: WEAC $1.57M !! for four state senators.

June 2, 2023 Wisconsin Watch’s Embarrassing Campaign against Vouchers and Christian Schools

Why might civics minded have an interest in funding sources (such as Wisconsin Watch, WILL, ActBlue and so on)?

Two examples:

Billionaire George Soros is taking a stake in the Bernalillo County district attorney’s race, backing Raul Torrez with a $107,000 contribution to an independent expenditure committee.

George Soros, a multibillionaire who has only the most tenuous connection to Colorado, is paying for negative ads against incumbent District Attorney Pete Weir, a Republican, pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the effort.

Wisconsin students with disabilities often denied public school options

Mario Koran:

Less talked about, however, is how the state’s biggest choice program, open enrollment, excludes students with disabilities. Roughly 70,000 Wisconsin students attend public schools outside their home districts through the 25-year-old open enrollment program. It allows students to apply to better-resourced public schools outside of district boundaries. But those schools can limit or deny slots for out-of-district students with disabilities.

Wisconsin districts in 2021-22 received 41,554 open enrollment applications, about 14% of which represented students with disabilities, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction data show. Schools rejected about 40% of applications in that category, with lack of special education space as the most common reason for the denials. By comparison, school districts rejected only 14% of applications from students without disabilities. 

Last year, for example, one suburban Madison district announced 115 slots for incoming open enrollment students — but none for children with disabilities.

The denials tie students to their home district school, underscoring how a child’s ZIP code shapes opportunities. The effect is compounded for students with disabilities.

More via the Wisconsin coalition for education freedom.

Curious (false claims) reporting on legacy k-12 schools, charter/voucher models and special education

Wisconsin coalition for education freedom:

Wisconsin Watch has released its third article in a series attempting to discredit the great work choice programs do in Wisconsin. Their latest article misrepresents admission policies of choice schools while ignoring the fact that public schools often engage in admission practices that would be illegal for schools participating in the state’s choice programs.
Wisconsin Watch is again making false claims.

  • In their most recent article, Wisconsin Watch again misrepresents school choice admission practices and now adds a false narrative that schools “expel” students with disabilities at will. Their claims don’t match reality, nor is a single example provided.
  • Fact: Schools in Wisconsin’s choice programs may not discriminate against any eligible family based on a student’s disability.i
  • As with many individual public schools, individual private schools are not required to provide a full range of disability services. Parents who choose to enroll their student do so only after being fully informed of available services.
    Some Wisconsin public schools have admissions processes that would be illegal for private choice schools.
  • Public school districts often have specialty public schools, in addition to their residentially assigned schools. Public schools are permitted to create admission requirements for these schools.
  • Public schools having admission requirements is not a new phenomenon, with the practice being documented in Wisconsin for decades.ii (Link)
  • Today, specialty schools like those in Milwaukeeiii (Link) use a points system to admit students based on their report card scores, attendance, standardized test scores, and an essay. In Green Bay,iv (Link) students must complete a test for admission to a school for the gifted.
  • Choice schools must admit students on a random basis if there is excess demand with few exceptions, primarily related to being in the same family as an existing student.v (Link)
    Public schools reject students in the public school full-time open enrollment program.

Phoebe Petrovic:

As an advocacy specialist at Disability Rights Wisconsin, Joanne Juhnke regularly finds herself on the phone with parents concerned about their children’s treatment at school.

Most complaints concern public schools, which enroll the majority of students. State funding for special education has shrunk, forcing districts to struggle to provide services, and disparate treatment of students with disabilities at public schools persists. But in public school, families have a state body to appeal to: the Department of Public Instruction.

DPI is far less helpful in disputes with private schools, which under state law can legally discriminate against students who need certain disability accommodations — or even kick them out. This applies even to private schools that receive taxpayer-funded tuition vouchers to educate students.

The calls Juhnke receives from voucher families often contain the same story. A family has enrolled a child with disabilities in a private school. Administrators have begun pressuring the student to leave or have kicked them out, something public schools cannot do. The parents are shocked. They’re sure the schools can’t do that.

Many times, Juhnke has to tell them: Yes, they can.

“You went into this school choice program thinking that you were the one, as the parents, who have the choice,” she said. “Really, on the other end, the school holds more choice cards than you do, and you’re coming out on the wrong side of that.”

I find the timing of Wisconsin Watch’s articles curious, amidst budget season. Ideally, the writer might dive deep and wide into the effectiveness of our well funded k-12 system. Reading would be a terrific place to start.

This Wisconsin Watch article was referenced in a recent St Marcus (Milwaukee) podcast. St Marcus operates an extraordinarily successful choice school on the City’s near north side. Read more, here.

Governor Evers’ most recent budget proposals have attempted to kill One City Schools’ charter authorization…

“Well, it’s kind of too bad that we’ve got the smartest people at our universities, and yet we have to create a law to tell them how to teach.”

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

PROOF POINTS: Criminal behavior rises among those left behind by school lotteries

Jill Barshay:

Many major cities around the country, from New York and New Orleans to Denver and Los Angeles, have changed how children are assigned to public schools over the past 20 years and now allow families to send their children to a school outside of their neighborhood zone. Known as public school choice or open enrollment, this policy gives children in poor neighborhoods a chance at a better education. Many supporters hoped it could also be a way to desegregate schools even as residential neighborhoods remain racially divided.

However, a new study of public school choice in Charlotte, North Carolina, finds a deeply troubling consequence to this well-intended policy: increased crime. 

Three university economists studied the criminal justice records of 10,000 boys who were in fifth grade between 2005 and 2008. Thousands wanted to go to highly regarded middle schools, some of which were in nearby suburbs of the large Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district. Seats were allocated through a lottery.

“But I also think that if we just do more of the same, we’re going to get more of the same, which is mediocre test results and kids who can’t read. That’s dumb. So I want reform.”

Scott Girard and Jessie Opoien:

The results, as Vos mentioned, have been poor. Reading and math scores on what’s known as the Nation’s Report Card dropped across the country last year, including in Wisconsin, where the gap in scores between Wisconsin’s Black and white students is the highest of any state, with only Washington, D.C. having a wider “opportunity gap.”

“When you look at the scores in Wisconsin, especially the gap between the races, it’s just unacceptable,” said Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, who will lead the Assembly education committee during this legislative session. “We have to do better, and we started to try to address it (in the last session). The governor vetoed that bill.

“But we really, really need to be able to work together, because I don’t see how we can address it if we don’t know that the governor is going to agree to what we do. So, I’m really hopeful we can for once work together on that.”

Kitchens was referring to a bill that would have significantly increased the number of literacy tests students must take and required the development of personalized reading plans for students deemed an “at-risk” reader. In his veto message, Evers said the bill didn’t provide adequate funding for its mandates.

“I want to go back and rehash that and say, ‘Why’d you veto this? What was the tweak that you need, right, or how can we make it better?’” Vos said of the proposal.

Republicans and those pushing for “reform” often focus on school choice, whether that’s voucher funding, charter schools or open enrollment opportunities. Public school advocates contend those options siphon money out of the public schools that need it.

To those advocates, the focus should be on making up for the past 14 years in which school spending increases were not tied to inflation — like they had been previously. If they had been, districts around Wisconsin would have been able to spend an additional $3,000 per student this school year.

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Declining Enrollment amidst ongoing Madison K-12 Tax & Spending Growth

Scott Girard:

The Madison Metropolitan School District can expect its recent enrollment losses to continue, according to new projections.

The School Board discussed projections from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Applied Population Lab Monday during an Instruction Work Group meeting. The reason for the drop is a mix of declining birth rates and increasing rates of students using open enrollment to attend school elsewhere.

The latter point gave board member Laura Simkin a glimmer of hope.

APL’s forecasting models show an average drop of 10% over the next five years, from 25,139 this year to 22,739 by the 2027-28 school year. The lowest projection would have the district at 21,668, while the most optimistic still has a decrease to 23,884.

In the 2018-19 school year, MMSD had 26,916 students, which was similar to the 27,028 it had five years prior. But the district has seen a significant dropoff since the COVID-19 pandemic, losing hundreds of students in each of 2020-21, 2021-22 and this year.

MMSD quantitative analyst Grady Brown pointed out that the district is not alone in its experience over the past few years, noting that the state experienced a 5% decline in public school enrollment from 2009-10 to 2020-21 and 3% decline from 2019-20 to 2020-21.

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Notes on discipline and character in the taxpayer supported Madison K-12 school district’s governance

David Blaska:

Spot quiz: What word will not be spoken by any of Madison’s candidates for school board? Time’s up! Groucho Marx’s secret word is “discipline.” Discipline is defined as “training to act in accordance with rules; activity, exercise or a regimen that develops or improves a skill.”

Discipline is the sine qua non (more Latin) of education. Mathematics, language, music, athletics — they’re all disciplines. All have rules that require mastery. All require effort — showing up, paying attention, listening to the one who teaches, doing the work.

Here’s the math: Discipline = Education = Success — never more so in our knowledge-based economy. If Madison’s growing cadre of car thieves has one thing in common, it is they are functionally illiterate. Doing crime is the surest way to fail, but Madison’s Woke progressives would rather play identity politics and guilt-trip history than demand performance.

Which is why the Werkes reminds parents that you do have a choice — if not at the ballot box, you can vote with your feet. The Wisconsin School Choice program (as opposed to the Milwaukee and Racine versions) is open for business until April 21 for enrollment next school year. We count 12 eligible non-public schools here in Dane and Columbia counties. Your child may qualify based on family income. Apply here.

If your family does not qualify, consider a more successful public school. Open Enrollment continues until 4:00 pm April 29.

Mandates, closed schools and Dane County Madison Public Health.

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

“Due to high volume, the system is temporarily unavailable”

Benjamin Yount:

It’s the latest snapshot of just how many parents in Wisconsin want to explore educational options for their kids.

Tuesday was the first day for parents to enroll in the state’s Private School Choice Program. By midday, the state’s website crashed because of a flood of applications.

“Due to high volume, the system is temporarily unavailable,” read a note at the Department of Public Instruction’s website.

Jim Bender with School Choice Wisconsin is not surprised.

“We know from talking to schools that interest in the program is very high. Many new parents are seeking options,” Bender said.

Bender said it won’t be known just how many more parents will opt their kids out of traditional public schools until the fall.

But the trend is that more parents will make a choice.

Enrollment figures from last year showed more students enrolled in Wisconsin’s four school choice programs.

While Tuesday brought a flood of parents to Wisconsin’s private school enrollment, next week could see even more parents apply for the state’s  Public School Open Enrollment, which begins next week.

Bender said parents shouldn’t have to wait, either for enrollment periods or overwhelmed websites, to improve their child’s education.

Mandates, closed schools and Dane County Madison Public Health.

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

The fall of the yellow-school-bus system requires swift modernization

Matthew Ladner:

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked. “Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

—Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

The Arizona Charter School Association has released a new study on one of the last great equity issues to address in a choice-based system: student transport. Arizona has the largest percentage of students attending charters (around 22 percent statewide), in addition to a very active system of district open enrollment and private school choice programs. A majority of Phoenix-area K–8 students attend a school other than the one assigned by zip code, so the importance of being able to travel has never been greater. But just as with the nation as a whole, Arizona’s yellow bus ridership declined pre-pandemic and crashed during the return to in-person schooling.

The paper establishes transport as a crucial equity issue by imagining a young family living at the address of the Arizona Capitol in downtown Phoenix. The family has a seventh grader and a busy schedule. If they rely on the yellow bus, they have a single school option. But if they can make a three-mile roundtrip daily, their universe of choices opens up to five middle schools. If they can stretch that to six-miles, they have nineteen schools to choose from, including multiple options with very high academic and community ratings on GreatSchools and Niche. The school the yellow school bus would take them to, however, has the lowest ratings in the group. This is a problem if the family doesn’t own an automobile or has a work schedule that makes the roundtrip impossible.

The study repeats this exercise in the two previous capitols located in Tucson and Prescott, with similar results: small distances can make a huge difference.

Bellwether Education Partners, in a separate study, found that, nationally in 2017, 54 percent of students got to school in a personally owned vehicle, 32 percent by bus, and only 10 percent by walking or biking. State figures in Arizona show that district bus ridership declined from 32 percent of public-school students transported by district bus in 2012 to 23 percent in 2019, even as statewide costs increased from $191 million to $380 million. National figures also show a decline in district bus ridership before the pandemic.

Which brings us to the “all of the sudden” part of the story. Much of the “gradual” decline nationally and in Arizona involved difficulties in hiring bus drivers. These drivers must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), and the career options for the holder of such a license steadily improved over time. Amazon, FedEx, Instacart, and others hired more and more CDL holders, gave them full-time work and benefits. So the odd-hour shifts of a part-time district bus driver that typically lacks benefits increasingly struggled in the market.

Mission vs Organization: Ohio edition

Anna Staver & Grace Deng:

Maybe the parents don’t want kids coming from outside the district. Maybe the schools are worried about test scores. Or maybe they see a single, African American parent and make assumptions about her family without knowing the full picture.

School choice advocates agree with Brittman. And that’s why they want to mandate open enrollment across Ohio.

“If people want to see systematic racism at work look at the map of districts that do and don’t allow it,” Center for Christian Virtue President Aaron Baer said. “It is the most racist policy in Ohio, and it is perpetuated by the public school system.”

Advocating Parent and Student K-12 choice

Common Sense Wisconsin:

Among the policies the POWER paper recommends:

Promoting the existing open enrollment process to inform parents of their options

Providing curriculum transparency so parents can enroll or transfer with full understanding of what’s being taught

Eliminating the per-pupil funding disparities between choice, charter and brick and mortar students

Expanding school choice to all areas of the state and eliminating the income limits for participants

Permitting alternative licensure, and loan forgiveness/reduced tuition for Education students who teach in Wisconsin

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

Commentary on Wisconsin’s Growing K-12 Tax & Spending Budget Plans

Libby Sobic:

On Thursday, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) finalized the state budget, which now heads for a full vote of the legislature. Legislative Republicans voted to invest in our students, their families and Wisconsin taxpayers.  Here are four takeaways you should know:

  1. JFC Republicans updated the budget and addressed the issue of the federal mandate for maintenance of effort. 

The various iterations of federal COVID-19 packages required states to meet a maintenance of effort requirement. Specifically, the federal packages limited state budgets and required that states invest a minimum of overall state spending into public schools.

JFC Republicans voted to increase spending in general school aids to ensure that Wisconsin K-12 and higher education schools receive the $2.2 billion from the federal COVID bills.  By investing additional state dollars into general aid, Wisconsin should be in compliance with maintenance of effort requirements.

  1. The investment into the general aid fund will also lower property taxes – a win-win for Wisconsin students, families and taxpayers.

The budget invests $408 million in general school aids. The Wisconsin school finance formula is a combination of state and local aid. By increasing the percentage of state aid to districts, it will decrease the amount of money that local property taxpayers must allocate for public schools. This means that districts with high local support, such as school districts in Door County, will receive more state funding and could see property tax levels lower than ever before. The proposal also limits the levy limits so the net effect of this additional funding must be allocated towards lowering property tax burdens.

Additionally, JFC Republicans previously voted to increase state aid to students through categorical aids, including increasing special education, transportation aid, and sparsity aid. A slight increase in per pupil amounts for private schools in the choice programs, public charter schools and open enrollment students will occur – $37 per pupil in 2021-22 and $64 per pupil in 2022-23.

As a reminder – $2.2 billion in federal aid is flooding into Wisconsin public schools.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

Wisconsin Governor Evers Vetoes an update to the Parent Choice Program



I am vetoing Assembly Bill 59 in its entirety.

This bill increases the income eligibility threshold for the Wisconsin Parental Choice

Program (WPCP) for the 2021-22 school year to 300 percent of the federal poverty level; allows pupils to submit full-time open enrollment applications to more than three nonresident school districts in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years; and prohibits a resident school board from denying an alternative open enrollment application in the 202021 and 2021-22 school years if the application is made on the basis of best interest of the pupil. I am vetoing this bill because I object to its proposed changes to the WPCP and open enrollment processes for multiple reasons.

First, I object to diverting resources from school districts to private schools. While the bill authors present this bill as a temporary increase in the income threshold, students who participate in any choice program are not required to meet the income requirement in subsequent years of participation. Therefore, a one-time change in the WPCP income threshold has the potential for long-term financial impacts. Additionally, participation in the WPCP increased by over 30 percent in the 2019-20 school year and 25 percent in the 2020-21 school with the 220 percent income threshold in place, indicating that the current income threshold does not prevent program growth.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

West Virginia’s New School Choice Law

Jayme Metzgar:

On February 2018, public school teachers brought West Virginia to its knees. Seeking pay raises and better health plans, unions had declared a “work stoppage” in all 55 counties, shuttering every public school in the state. The “stoppage” — which was in fact an unlawful strike — dragged on for nine school days, costing children nearly two weeks of instruction. Under pressure, the Republican legislature rushed through a pay raise to pacify the unions.

The victorious teachers of West Virginia quickly became the darlings of the socialist left. Jacobin magazine, which had extensively covered the strike, ran a victory-lap interview entitled “What the Teachers Won.” News coverage touched off copycat strikes, beginning in Arizona and spreading to other states. The “Red for Ed” movement was born, uniting unions, socialists, and other far-left radicals in dreams of an American labor renaissance.

Flush with victory, West Virginia teachers’ unions got bolder. The next year, they went on strike again, taking aim at broader education policy. The Republican Senate had passed a bill granting teachers their second pay raise in two years, but they tied it to something for parents: school choice.

It wasn’t much—open enrollment, Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) for special-needs students, and permission for three charter schools statewide. But West Virginia was one of the last remaining states without school choice, and “Red for Ed” wasn’t letting that go without a fight.

The 2019 strike lasted only two days. The West Virginia House of Delegates quickly caved, scuttling school choice and passing a “clean” pay raise for teachers. But 18 Republicans in the state Senate stood firm. No school choice, no second pay raise, they said. Their stand forced the governor’s hand. A special session in June resulted in the passage of modest school choice measures. Open enrollment survived; so did the three charter schools. ESAs did not.

School Choice Spreads as Pandemic Public Education Falls Short

Elizabeth Nolan Brown:

Across the country, a flurry of new legislation aims to expand educational options during the pandemic and beyond. Iowa is on its way to passing a major school choice bill backed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. Nebraska may bring opportunities for homeschooled students to play team sports and participate in public school extracurriculars. Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Washington state are also considering some positive changes.

In celebration of National School Choice Week, here’s a look at some of these reforms.


A new proposal from Reynolds establishes school choice in Iowa by granting state scholarships to public school students who want to attend private schools. “We do not believe this is a private vs. public school debate. It is simply a school choice for the parents to choose,” said Anne Rohling, president of St. Albert Catholic School and a strong supporter of the proposal. “Open enrollment in the public schools [has] allowed families the opportunity to seek out the best fit for their children. If this legislation will empower more families to have more choices, then we are in support of it.”

But the bill also faces strong opposition, in and outside the Iowa statehouse. The President of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP “says this could lead to segregation in some Iowa Schools,” reports CBS 2 Iowa. “We agree that parents should have the choice to enroll their child in a private or religious school, but not with public taxpayer funds,” said Council Bluffs Superintendent Vickie Murillo.

Larry Gray, director of the Council Bluffs Heartland Christian School, responded:

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.

Wisconsin DPI releases fall student count and revenue limit information


The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction today released information on fall student counts and school district revenue limits for the 2020-2021 school year.

Wisconsin school districts, independent charter schools, and private school parental choice programs reported overall slowdowns or declines in enrollment, particularly in 4K. Districts also reported summer school participation declined by more than half between 2019 and 2020. The data published is unaudited and is based off of enrollment counts performed on Sept. 18, 2020, the third Friday of September, and reported to the DPI.

The student count data includes unduplicated(1) headcounts and membership FTE (full-time equivalent). Headcount is the number of students enrolled for instruction in a given school or district on the count date. Membership is a full-time equivalent value used for school finance purposes, where students in preschool special education, 4K, and part-time kindergarten are counted as less than 1.0 FTE. Membership for school districts reflects residency, not enrollment; a student in the open enrollment program is included in the headcount for the district they attend, but the membership for the district where they reside. District membership also includes an addition of summer school FTE(2).

Madison’s enrollment drops by more than 1000 students.

K-12 Tax, Referendum and budget climate: Madison School District enrollment drops by more than 1,000 students

Elizabeth Beyer:

Enrollment in the Madison School District has dropped by more than 1,000 students for the 2020-2021 school, the district said Friday.

The decrease in enrollment is significant compared to the previous school year when the district lost only 33 students between 2018-2019 and 2019-2020.

The drop in enrollment could spell trouble for district funding. A portion of state school aid funding is doled out to districts per student, and district enrollment impacts how much money it receives in state equalization aid.

The district had planned for a 3% drop in enrollment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, after administering a survey to student families in July. Respondents to the survey who said they planned to leave the district indicated they would enroll students in homeschooling, transfer to a virtual school, transfer to another district or transfer to a private school.

Elementary and 4K grade levels accounted for 90% of the 2020-2021 school year decrease, according to a memo released by the district. Kindergarten and 4K enrollment accounted for a loss of 500 students, and there were “noticeable” decreases in 5th and 9th grades, the memo said.

Scott Girard:

Middle school enrollment dropped from 5,486 to 5,455 and high school decreased from 7,891 to 7,834.

More than half of the drop, 56%, is accounted for by students moving to another district in Wisconsin, according to the memo. Another 15% is students who moved out of state, with open enrollment, private school, international move, drop outs and homeschooling accounting for the rest.

[MMSD plans to pilot full-day 4K program next year]

A July 13-26 survey on reopening schools found that about 3% of respondents planned to not enroll their children in MMSD for the school year. District administrators then used that number to plan the budget. The drop of 1,006 students equals about 3.7%.

Expanding Course Access (SB 789) Will Empower Families for Post-COVID Education

CJ Szafir and Libby Sobic:

SB 789, which improves upon the outdated “Part-Time Open Enrollment” program — allows any elementary, middle, or high school student to take up to two courses at any other school, including public, public charter, and private. And this happens all without the student ever dis-enrolling from their school. This could allow students to take courses at any nearby school “in-person” — or at a school across the state “virtually.” SB 789, led by Senator Alberta Darling and Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt, received bipartisan support in its passage in the Assembly and now awaits a vote in the Senate.

Even before COVID, Wisconsin had a course access problem. Too many students in rural and urban K-12 schools simply do not have access to important courses. 60% of public high schools in Wisconsin do not offer intro computer science. Surveying AP courses offered at all traditional Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) high schools, 95% do not offer computer science, 84% do not offer economics, and 84% do not offer physics. In Northeastern Wisconsin, a survey of high schools found that 100% do not offer Spanish or economics, and 78% do not offer government or computer science. All of this is directly related to Wisconsin’s K-12 educational woes — struggling urban and rural schools, major racial achievement gaps, and too many graduates not equipped for the workforce.

Related: credit for non-MMSD courses.

Candidate Q&A: River Valley School Board


Why should voters elect you instead of your opponent?

Flint: My opponent has closed four schools and shipped our kids and resources to Spring Green with no plan to fix the problem. Division, bitterness, declining enrollment, open enrollment is what we are left with. We need a plan! We can’t keep asking the taxpayers to pay more for bad management.

Nelson: I have served on the board for 27 years. I have attended the State Education Convention and other valuable training many times. I know the history behind what has happened in our district over the years and I can help our district continue to be the great district it is.

What is the most pressing issue in your community and how would you address it?

Flint: Enrollment! Advertising and increasing our state and federal stats by increasing our reading scores so the other 60% can be proficient would go a long way. Good schools and good special education programs bring people to communities. Arena had a 23% increase in enrollment! Too bad they closed it.

Nelson: We need to continue to build on the great school district that we have. We are preparing our children for jobs that don’t even exist yet. We need to work with local businesses and post-high school educators to have our students career-ready.

Mission vs organization: leadership of the taxpayer supported ($500m+ annually) Madison School District

David Blaska:

Only 8.9% of Madison’s African American high school students are proficient in English, according to 2019 ACT scores. One of every five African American students never graduate. In math, 65% of black students test below basic proficiency, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Not to worry, the district now prohibits teachers from telling parents if their child wants to change genders.

Cheatham’s behavior education plan, Anderson wrote, “led students to conclude that there are no longer any consequences for bad behavior.”

The parents and teachers at Jefferson Middle School know that all too well. They are wondering how a 13-year-old boy who shot another student with a BB gun in December remained in school after two dozen previous incidents, including threatening to “kill everyone in the school.” The district is hunting down the whistleblower who leaked the student’s chronic misbehavior record.

School gag rules hide much of the chaos in the classroom, but no schoolhouse door can contain the disrespect for authority — as when 15 to 20 young teenagers busted up Lakeview Library last March, taunting: “We don’t have to listen to the police.” In December alone, 56 cars were stolen in Madison. Police arrested 15 kids (all but two younger than 17), along with three adults.

The district’s brain-dead, zero-tolerance for the N-word — no matter the educational context — resulted in the summary dismissal of a beloved black security guard and of a Hispanic teacher. The district still hasn’t done right by a dedicated positive behavior coach at Whitehorse Middle School, who school officials threw under the bus even before the district attorney cleared him of all wrong-doing. (The man is white.)

Parents are voting with their feet. MMSD enrollment is expected to decline — even though more people are moving here than any other city in the state. Meanwhile, Sun Prairie is building a second high school. Between the state open enrollment program and private schools, just over 13% of Madison’s children are opting out. Good luck convincing their parents to vote for Madison’s $350 million spending referendums next fall.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

Administrative Commentary on the taxpayer supported Palmyra-Eagle School District (and the relevance of many smaller districts)

Chris Rickert:

Five of the six other board members, all representing other local school districts, agreed. Only the state superintendent of public instruction’s designee to the board, David Carlson, voted against keeping the district open.

District employees, students and community members packing the district’s middle school gymnasium where the board was meeting erupted in applause when the fourth vote in favor of keeping the district open was announced, and then again when the final vote was tallied.

“I am just happy to give this to our students. … and to know that our juniors are going to graduate next year as Panthers means the world to me and their families,” said Tara LeRoy, a mother of two students in the district and a main force behind a citizens group working to preserve the district, named the Panther Community Network after the district’s mascot.

Palmyra-Eagle has seen its enrollment drop over the last 14 years from 1,154 students to 769 in 2018-19. It’s lacked commercial and industrial development to drive property tax revenues and seen an increase in the number of students in the district — up to 40% — opting to go to school in other surrounding districts under the state’s open enrollment program.

Related: An emphasis on adult employment.

School choice: separating fact from fiction

Matthew Ladner:

School choice is a hot topic in the United States. Private school vouchers, public charter schools, open enrollment, and homeschooling all regularly appear on the policy agenda as ways to improve the educational experience and outcomes for students, parents, and the broader society. Pundits often make claims about the various ways in which parents select schools and thus customize their child’s education. What claims about school choice are grounded in actual evidence?

This book presents systematic reviews of the social science research regarding critical aspects of parental school choice. How do parents choose schools and what do they seek? What effects do their choices have on the racial integration of schools and the performance of the schools that serve non-choosing students? What features of public charter schools are related to higher student test scores? What effects does school choice have on important non-cognitive outcomes including parent satisfaction, student character traits, and how far students go in school? What do we know about homeschooling as a school choice? This book, originally published as a special issue of the Journal of School Choice, provides evidence-based answers to those vital questions.

School Choice Programs Continue Rapid Growth

School Choice Wisconsin:

“Year over year, the Parental Choice Programs continue to grow across Wisconsin,” Jim Bender said. “Combined with public school open enrollment and independent charters, more than 12% of students are educated with public dollars outside their resident district. That number continues to increase every year.”

WPCP – District limits are at 4% of enrollment for 2019-20. There are currently waiting lists generated within five public school districts across the state.

The data sheets found on DPI’s website list prior year enrollment in a manner that perpetuates a myth about the WPCP having a high percentage of students who were already in private school. They do not list the status of a student when they entered the program, just where they attended in the prior year. So, a student that transferred from a public school two years ago is listed on the DPI sheet as previously being a private school student. This egregious misrepresentation is not done by accident. It is meant to mislead.

Notes and links: Police and the Taxpayer supported Madison School District

David Blaska:

“Mainstream education is an oppressive institution,”
says one supporter

If I read this right, Madison police will continue to provide security and positive role models in Madison’s four main public high schools for two more school years.

That is because the Madison Board of Education is not considering evicting the school resource officer at any one of those schools for the 2020-21 school year, as its contract with the city permits. At least, that’s according to the agenda posted for Monday’s (08-26-19) school board meeting. And time is running out.

One supposes it is possible for a special meeting to be called before the September 15 deadline.

Chris Rickert:

A Madison School Board member’s comparison of police to Nazis and of Dane County’s juvenile jail to concentration camps is drawing the ire of local law enforcement.

In a Facebook post Saturday highlighting the plight of youth detained at the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center, Ali Muldrow said: “I think that (it’s) important to talk about what it is like for the students who are arrested at school and end up in the Dane County Jail. We would not talk about the role of the Nazis and act as if the experiences people had in concentration camps is a separate issue.”

Muldrow, who was elected to her first term on the board in April, has long questioned the need to lock up juvenile offenders and criticized racial disparities in the criminal justice system.


But he had “difficulty equating what they go through with Nazi Germany.”

School Board president Gloria Reyes, a former Madison police officer, called the Holocaust comparisons “very far-fetched.”

“We can’t blame officers for the disparities in arrests,” she said. “They (police) get called.”

She said she shared Muldrow’s concerns about disparities in arrests “but we are doing something about it,” mentioning restorative justice, for example.

Kelly Powers, president of the Madison Professional Police Officers Association, called Muldrow’s post “universally insulting” and “ridiculous on so many levels.”

“It is this sort of position that will cause (the Madison School District) to continue seeing departures to open enrollment and families moving to neighboring communities,” he said.

In her own comment on Muldrow’s post, school board member Ananda Mirillli, who was also elected to a first term in April, thanked Muldrow “for directly speaking to the issue of armed police in our schools. Thanks for speaking to the experiences of our students upon incarceration

Commentary on Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ proposed budget

WILL Policy Brief:

Today WILL is releasing “A Deep Dive into Governor Evers’ K-12 Budget Proposal” that goes through nearly every single education proposal in Evers’ budget while utilizing new research as well as LFB analysis and JFC testimony. For each proposal, we explain how it impacts schools and students across Wisconsin.

We dive deep into nearly every provision in his budget, from his infamous voucher freeze – which would cost Wisconsin $110 million in lost economic benefits – to the ending of the Special Needs Scholarship Program – that has a 56% higher parental satisfaction score than public schools for educating students with disabilities. The report looks at lesser known provisions, such as new private school accreditation requirements, new teacher licensing requirements, changes to the early college credit program, the elimination of the private school tuition tax deduction, and more mandates from Madison on local school districts.

Evers’ budget should concern parents and lawmakers alike. It would end school choice as we know it – freezing the expansion of vouchers and charters but also implementing stifling regulations that would halt the growth of private schools in the choice program. It also goes after Wisconsin’s incredibly popular Open Enrollment Program, limiting funding increases for the program and making it less desirable for public schools to participate. Evers’ budget would exacerbate Wisconsin’s teacher shortage problem, making it harder for teachers to work at private and public schools. All in all, Evers’ budget: