Wisconsin is a national leader in providing parents school choice options.
Public School Choice:
Wisconsin offers extensive choice within its public education system. The Education Commission of the States reports that Wisconsin has implemented two open enrollment policies: mandatory statewide inter-district open enrollment and a voluntary inter-district and intra-district open enrollment policy.
Private School Choice:
Wisconsin has provided private school choice to its students for more than 20 years. The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, enacted in 1990, provides scholarships to low-income students living in the Milwaukee Public School District. As of 2011, this program has been expanded, and over 24,000 students participated in 2013. The Racine Parental Private School Choice Program was launched in 2011 to provide scholarships to students in the Racine school district to attend a private school of their choice. In 2013, nearly 500 students received scholarships, with preference given to students from low-income families.
The Center for Education Reform reports that Wisconsin has an average charter school law because charter schools are granted a great deal of autonomy and there is no cap on the maximum number of charter schools that can exist. As of 2013, the National Association for Public Charter Schools reports that over 43,000 students were enrolled in the state’s 243 public charter schools.
According to Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning, Wisconsin provides a state-led virtual program as well as 15 full-time online charter schools and several district programs. The state-led Wisconsin Virtual School (WVS) provides over 170 courses for students in grades 6-12. In 2010-2011, WVS had 3,381 course enrollments, an increase of 53% from the previous school year. The 15 virtual charter schools in operation during the 2010-2011 school year served 3,927 students, a 26% increase from the previous year. The Wisconsin eSchool Network, a consortium of 11 school districts, had nearly 5,000 course enrollments in 2010-2011.
In 2011, Governor Scott Walker signed a state budget that included provisions to expand the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, increasing income eligibility and completely lifting the cap on the number of students who can participate. The budget also included language that set into place a similar school choice program for students in neighboring Racine County.
Click here for detailed information on Wisconsin's public school system and see below for school choice contacts in Wisconsin.