Opponents of Parental Choice Programs use myths and distortions about religious and independent schools to discredit private K-12 education.
WCRIS members and our boosters can use these false claims and arguments as an opportunity to educate the community on facts about Wisconsin’s K-12 private schools.
WCRIS Executive Director Sharon Schmeling’s op-ed, “Wisconsin’s School Wars Don’t Work,” was featured in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS), the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, the La Crosse Tribune and the Chippewa Herald, and uses some of the facts below to explain private schools in Wisconsin. You can find the MJS article online here.
The following are facts about private schools that you can use to start a conversation about what our schools contribute to Wisconsin’s educational infrastructure and to refute negative commentary:
- Public school open enrollment has a bigger impact than Parental Choice Programs. Today, 53,188 Wisconsin students – nearly 6 percent — are using public school choice, otherwise known as “open enrollment.” Families of all incomes are eligible. The enrollment in this program has a far greater impact on school districts than Parental Choice Programs.
- Only low-income families can use Parental Choice Programs. There are 27,619 students in Milwaukee and another 4,641 students around the state using the Parental Choice Programs.
- The Special Needs Scholarship Program is only available to students who have been turned away from open enrollment by a public school district.
- Private schools are needed in Wisconsin because they save taxpayers money. If all the private schools closed, state and local taxes would have to increase by $1 billion annually to educate all of those children in the public system, according to an analysis by the non-partisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.
- Private schools can’t replace public education because there aren’t enough private schools to do so and because schools are hard to start. The vast majority of private schools in Wisconsin enroll kindergarteners through eighth graders. These students graduate on to attend public high schools. For that reason, the private schools have long supported a robust public education system, and work closely with public schools to help students transition between systems.
- Private schools in Wisconsin are covered by hundreds of state and federal laws regulating every aspect of school life. Most are accredited, which is the same system used in higher education to ensure quality. Schools participating in the Parental Choice Programs have even more regulations to follow. And, these private schools also have to keep the tuition paying parents happy because if they don’t, the tuition disappears and schools close.
- The Parental Choice Programs are Constitutional. Both the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court long-ago ruled that private school voucher programs are constitutional because the government plays no role in the selection of the school. The courts ruled that private school voucher programs meet the state’s secular interest of educating children. If a voucher is used to attend a religious school, it’s because of a parental decision — not government fiat.
- The point of the money is to educate children — not sustain systems, public or private, for the sake of adults.
You can use these facts by:
- Picking just one or two of the facts above and writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. You can also invite private school boosters who are leaders in the community to do the same.
- Posting the facts on your school’s website or other social media.
- Sharing the facts with your school’s parents so they are equipped to deal with commentary about private schools “hurting public education” during local education campaigns for school referendum and by folks running for office.
Working together we can educate the public about the contributions and benefits of private schools.