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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.

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.

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.

Chershanta Smith can’t imagine her daughter, Gabrielle, attending school anywhere other than St. Marcus Lutheran School in Milwaukee’s Brewer’s Hill neighborhood. And that’s not only because she believes her daughter is receiving an excellent education at St. Marcus through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, but because the school’s community has embraced and supported her entire family.

At the start of the pandemic in 2020, Wishkub Kinepoway faced two family crises with some crying, prayer and a lot of determination. A member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians and a Shawano County transplant to Milwaukee, Kinepoway knew she needed to make a change for her children. She also knew that change wouldn’t come without school choice.