Browsing: School Choice

The bargain struck Thursday between legislative leaders and the governor ensures the financial sustainability of the school choice and charter school programs but that also increases the low revenue ceiling for public school districts that are on the bottom of the revenue spectrum.

“This is good day for Wisconsin, and for anyone who cares about our children – parents who want more power over their kids’ education, teachers who work so hard, and school administrators who have long worried about sustainability,” said Badger Institute President Mike Nichols.

A new poll last month asked 700 likely voters, “Do you generally support or oppose school choice?” and 70% said “support.” That’s a landslide. Sure, the idea was big with Republicans, but 67% of independents favor choice. A majority of Democrats, 53%, did.

Parents who favor charter and choice schools often do so because they’re better suited to a family’s values. But Wisconsin puts a price tag on family values when the gap between funding traditional public school students and charter or choice students is so drastic. That’s why the Badger Institute is calling on Wisconsin lawmakers to close the gap through equal funding for charter and choice schools… and to celebrate character in the process.

Starting from a deficit…

That’s the reality for Wisconsin choice and charter schools that receive a fraction of the per-pupil funding that traditional public schools receive.

Close the gap and, in the words of Kingdom Prep principal Kevin Festerling, “We could open up five more of these tomorrow. We could say yes to more parents and more students.”

Innovation in public education is a good thing. You can hear it in the voices of students from Pathways High, where diverse needs are met through personal attention and creative collaboration.The state sends a different signal, however — especially when it comes to funding those students. Independent charter schools like Pathways are public schools. Yet they receive thousands of dollars less per student than traditional public schools.

Pathways, a public school, gets $9,200 per pupil from taxpayers, the funding Wisconsin offers to all charter schools. By contrast, the average district public school in Wisconsin spends about $15,300 per child, the latest “total education cost,” according to the Department of Public Instruction. Why the gap?

Nancy’s hope is that more schools in Wisconsin would be a blessing to kids like hers. And many schools would . . . if they received the same amount of funding that public schools receive per student. If you struggle to see the sense in setting a student’s worth based on the school they attend, you’re not alone. Education freedom is about funding students, not systems, structures or institutions.

Students with special needs are eligible for state categorical aids and federal aid while attending either an independent charter or traditional public school. Unfortunately, there are still systemic funding inequities. Local and state funding for traditional public schools exceeds that of independent charter schools by thousands of dollars per student.

Lisa McCloskey: If this is about the children, then make it about the children and not about bureaucracy and dollars only to traditional schooling. This is not a cookie-cutter type of situation where everyone learns the same thing at the same time at the same level. Not so with my daughter.

“It’s becoming more and more important that we raise up generations of young people who know what’s right and wrong, who know what’s truth and what’s false,” said Festerling.

“If we don’t do that, they’re going to go off to these wolves who will eat them alive. And so I’m just so thrilled that school choice is giving guys who have a book called the Bible, that can preach the truth and the gospel, and if parents like that and want that, they’ll subscribe to it and send their kids.”

Parents are hungry for schools where opportunity abounds — where kids are taught to lead lives of purpose for the good of their families, their communities and their futures.

Yet, it’s difficult to create that opportunity when Wisconsin students are so inequitably funded. Students attending choice schools are funded at 60% the value of their public-school counterparts, meaning schools must spend time and energy raising funds in order to provide the quality education that every child deserves.