school choice

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.

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