The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) has filed an amicus brief and a motion to intervene in a lawsuit seeking to overturn Wisconsin’s widely popular and successful school choice program. WILL’s motion and amicus was filed on behalf of 22 clients—representing parents of students enrolled in choice and charter schools, schools across Wisconsin, and organizations that advocate for educational freedom. Over 85% of all choice-program students within the schools WILL is representing are non-white, based on state data. Many of the students are from low- or middle-income families.

The Quotes: Rick Esenberg, WILL President and General Counsel, stated, “On behalf of our clients and about 65,000 students who benefit from Wisconsin’s choice programs, WILL stands ready to defend the rule of law and the educational freedoms afforded to students and families alike. Our arguments submitted to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin explain why it would be entirely inappropriate for the Court to agree to take this case.” 

Dr. Charles Moore, Executive Director of Impact Christian Schools (WILL Client) based in Dane County, stated, “Protecting choice in education is a big part of our life’s work because ultimately it means more kids can receive a quality education that sets them up for success. Impact Christian Schools is proud to join this coalition of choice schools and parents with kids at choice and charter schools who benefit from Wisconsin’s choice programs. Taken together this group is for one purpose and one goal: the absolute best education possible for Wisconsin students.”   

The Story of School Choice in Wisconsin: School choice began in Wisconsin in the early 1990s with the creation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (the “MPCP”).  The creation of the MPCP was a bipartisan effort between the legislature, which was then controlled by Democrats, and Republican Governor Tommy Thompson. The MPCP was created in reaction to the poor academic results from public schools in the City of Milwaukee (MPS). Fewer than 60% of MPS freshmen went on to graduate high school, and more than 60% of MPS teachers reported that they would not want to enroll their own children at the school at which they taught. 

As a result of MPCP’s success, the Legislature expanded school choice to Racine in 2011 (Racine Parental Choice Program or “RPCP”), and statewide in 2013 (Wisconsin Parental Choice Program or “WPCP”). The Legislature also created the Special Needs Scholarship Program (“SNSP”) in 2015 to provide more options to families with children who have disabilities. In addition, in 1993, Wisconsin created the independent charter school program that is equally successful and popular with over 10,000 students enrolled in independent charter schools last year.

This widespread and popular program is now at risk. On October 12th, a lawsuit was filed at the Wisconsin Supreme Court to challenge the constitutionality of the Wisconsin school choice programs. The primary backer of the case has been the owner of the Minocqua Brewing Company, who also runs a Super PAC.

Original Action Must Be Denied Outright: WILL’s brief to the Court states that the Petitioners‘ arguments are factually incorrect and that granting their arguments would lead to vast unintended consequences. The factual inaccuracies, incorrect conclusions, and breathtakingly broad relief requested by the Petitioners makes bringing these issues directly to the Wisconsin Supreme Court not only impractical, but completely inappropriate. Therefore, on behalf of its broad group of clients, WILL first requests that the Petition be denied outright.

Intervention: If the Court does not deny the Petition, then WILL is asking the Court to let its group of clients intervene in the case. The people of Wisconsin have enacted comprehensive, educational choice programs—designed to ensure every parent, regardless of their location or their familial income, has access to multiple options for educating their child. Education options for parents include traditional public schools, open enrollment, district charter schools, independent charter schools, virtual schools, private schools, and home schools. Petitioners would have this Court eliminate several of these education options chosen by the parents of over 60,000 students throughout the state of Wisconsin.  

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