school choice

Emily Files / WUWM

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was in Waukesha Thursday to talk with families who are unhappy with virtual learning and have switched their children to different schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

School choice – or providing alternatives to traditional public schools – is a central part of DeVos’ platform. At the Waukesha roundtable event, DeVos said the pandemic has made the case for school choice even stronger.

Emily Files / WUWM

Updated on July 21 at 5:49 p.m.

After some confusion and criticism, the Milwaukee Health Department clarified Tuesday that it does not intend to keep all city schools closed this fall.

Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik says the department will issue a new order that allows schools to open for in-person classes if they have an approved safety plan in place.

Original story

Emily Files

In Wisconsin, parents have a lot of choices about where to send their children to school. Open Enrollment allows families to switch between public school districts. Parental choice programs let some families enroll in private schools, using taxpayer-funded vouchers.

READ: Vice President Mike Pence Joins Wisconsin School Choice Rally

Emily Files

The politics of education was on full display in Wisconsin’s capital on Tuesday — with two of the Trump administration’s top officials rallying support for school choice, and public education advocates calling for an end to those programs.

Emily Files / WUWM

One of President Trump’s most controversial Cabinet members visited Milwaukee Monday to celebrate and call for the expansion of school choice. It was Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ first stop on her back-to-school tour promoting "education freedom."

DeVos spent a few hours at St. Marcus Lutheran School, a private voucher school in the Brewer's Hill neighborhood. She toured classrooms, talked to students, and held a roundtable discussion that included like-minded state lawmakers.

Emily Files

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will call for a freeze on school choice programs and independent charter schools when he introduces his biennial budget proposal this week.

Evers isn’t trying to end school choice in Wisconsin. But he does want to hit the brakes. His office provided an outline of his voucher and charter school proposal prior to his budget address, which is scheduled for Thursday.

It includes freezing enrollment in Wisconsin’s voucher programs, beginning in fiscal year 2021, and phasing out the newest of the programs.

Emily Files

Sincere Tatum, 18, is one of a handful of black students at Brookfield Central High School. The school is 70 percent white, 4 percent black. 

“It took a while for me to adjust,” Tatum said. “Most of the time I’m the only African-American kid in my class.”

But Tatum tends to look for the upside in challenging situations.

“Like OK, there’s a cultural difference, but now I have the opportunity to educate my classmates if needed,” he says.

Emily Files / WUWM

Gov. Tony Evers wants to increase state special education funding by $600 million. The dramatic proposal follows a decade of flat state funding, despite rising costs to serve students with disabilities.

Right now, the main state support for special education only covers about a quarter of school districts’ costs. It’s up to local districts to make up the difference.

Emily Files

At Tony Evers’ inauguration last week, he repeated one of his central promises: that he would invest more in public education.

“We talked about what’s best for our kids is best for our state,” Evers said. “And that means we need to fully fund our public schools at every level.”

Emily Files

Education is at the forefront of Wisconsin’s close race for governor. Incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker has been calling himself ‘the education governor,’ while his Democratic challenger Tony Evers is the elected state superintendent.

How has Wisconsin’s education landscape changed under Walker? And if Evers were to unseat him, what would that mean for schools?

Amy Mizialko, president of the Milwaukee teachers’ union, thinks Walker’s decisions around public education are coming back to haunt him in this race.

special-needs-voucher-wisconsin-state-funding
Emily Files

Is state special education funding in Wisconsin unfair? School districts from Eau Claire to Oak Creek say it is. They see inequity between public schools and a relatively new voucher program.

The Special Needs Scholarship Program is another chapter in Wisconsin’s storied school choice movement. It provides an approximate $12,000 scholarship — or voucher — for students with disabilities to attend private school. The state pays for the vouchers by decreasing aid to public school districts where the students live.

The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee is putting the final touches on the state budget. One of the items members took up Wednesday was an expansion of vouchers for special needs students. After more than an hour of contentious debate, the panel voted along party lines, 12 to four in favor of doubling the program.

The Trump administration has made school choice, vouchers in particular, a cornerstone of its education agenda. This has generated lots of interest in how school voucher programs across the country work and whom they benefit.

Bill McChesney/Flickr

Updated March 23, 2017:

The tug-of-war continues between public and private choice schools in Milwaukee over transportation costs.

Last fall, a pair of Milwaukee voucher schools approached MPS, asking the district to reimburse them for the cost of student bus service.

Now, one of those programs is suing MPS.

Rachel Morello

A new player enters Milwaukee's booming school choice landscape this fall: St. Augustine Preparatory Academy – Augustine Prep, for short.

Over the next five years, the private voucher school is expected to accommodate up to 1,700 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. That will make it the second-largest private school in Milwaukee’s Parental Choice program.

Rachel Morello

Gov. Walker has declared this week “School Choice Week” – and if there’s one thing that characterizes choice in Wisconsin these days, it is competition to attract students.

Schools are working to distinguish themselves through marketing.

Rachel Morello

Milwaukee is home to the longest-running school voucher program in the country. And even though it is more than a quarter-century old, the system still generates plenty of division.

Before the election, Marquette Law School planned to host a conversation about lessons the city has learned about vouchers. Now the topic is even more relevant, because the nation may head down the path Milwaukee has followed for more than 25 years.

Rachel Morello

It’s “back to school” time across Milwaukee.

For about 100 students on the near south side, this fall marks a brand-new experience – not only for them, but for their school, Stellar Collegiate.

It’s the brainchild of a local educator, and many parents are putting their faith in her program that, this time last year, they knew nothing about.

Rachel Morello

A number of people in Milwaukee are creating schools. It’s possible, in part, because of the community’s thriving charter and voucher school programs, which provide public funding.

Michelle Maternowski

The Milwaukee Public Schools system has been shrinking in terms of enrollment. Now, it could lose more buildings, too.

When a school closes, it goes on a list of vacant, or “surplus” properties.

Friday, the Common Council approved five interested entities who can buy those buildings. Not on the list: MPS.

Cory Savage (Savage Solutions LLC)

It’s not often that someone builds a brand new school in Milwaukee. But it’s going to happen soon on the south side. St. Augustine Preparatory Academy will open on 5th Avenue, west of Interstate 94,  in summer of 2017.

When Waukesha businessman Gus Ramirez looked at Milwaukee’s educational landscape, he saw a need for better schools.

“About half of the Milwaukee students in all sectors – public, charter and choice – are going to awful schools. Not just bad, but awful schools,” Ramirez reflects. “We’re one of the worst in the country.”

Mitzi Keel, Schools That Can Milwaukee

School choice is an extremely divisive issue in Milwaukee, and across the state.

Public and private education advocates are passionate about their respective sectors – and their students, yet not always about each other.

But with Valentine’s Day on the horizon, educators from public, charter and voucher schools decided to embrace the spirit of the holiday this week.

They tucked politics away for one night to show each other some "cross-sector love." 

Sean Hackbarth, flickr

Milwaukee boasts the largest school voucher program in the country. More than 25,000 students here are participating. Wisconsin also runs its own statewide program, along with another in Racine.

Choice programs give interested families public education dollars, or vouchers, to send their kids to private schools.

Educators across the country are celebrating school choice week.

BART EVERSON, FLICKR

This week, educators across the country will celebrate school choice week. Milwaukee is home to the oldest and largest school choice, or voucher program, in the nation. This year, 27,000 Milwaukee students are using state-funded vouchers to attend private schools; most are religious and many, Catholic.

The school landscape has changed dramatically in Milwaukee, starting after religious schools were folded into the choice program in 1998.

Bart Everson, flickr

Proponents of parental school choice programs in the state will mark 25 years of school choice this evening. A coalition of groups is organizing the event featuring a number of speakers from throughout the movement’s history.

It comes as debate over the future of education in Wisconsin remains heated, and as the leading choice advocacy group holds its annual conference beginning Thursday in Waukesha. Lake Effect's Mitch Teich talks with Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson will come to Milwaukee today Monday to host a hearing on the city’s school Choice program. He specifically wants information about a federal probe that’s been underway. It’s been looking into whether the voucher program has discriminated against students with disabilities. The investigation started nearly eight years ago.

Senator Ron Johnson says he has every right to demand answers from the Justice Department because he’s chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Gus Ramirez wants to build a four-story school on 5th and Harrison, in Milwaukee's Walker's Point/Bay View neighborhoods. The school he envisions would educate children living in the area and would be either a charter or voucher school, in essence, an alternative to MPS.

On Monday, the City Plan Commission voted unanimously in favor of rezoning the land, so that it could accommodate a school. The recommendation now goes before a Common Council committee.

Gov. Walker spent time in New Orleans Monday, touting plans to expand Wisconsin’s school voucher program. Tuesday, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee will debate his proposal.

While Wisconsin may open its voucher program to more students, not many other states are headed in that direction.

Erin Toner

Thousands of students and hundreds of millions of public dollars that might have gone to Milwaukee Public Schools instead went to private schools in the last quarter century. Still, several MPS schools are showing improvement.

Milwaukee Voucher Program Turns 25: What It Has Taught

Nov 21, 2014

The city's education scene is much more diverse than in 1990, when school choice started here, but overall student achievement has barely budged.

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