By Benjamin Yount
(The Center Square) – School choice is on the agenda at the Wisconsin Capitol this week.
The Assembly’s Committee on Education will hear three proposals to expand or strengthen school choice in the state.
- AB 59 increases the income threshold for parents who want to enroll in Wisconsin’s Parental Choice program to 300% of the federal poverty level, or about $78,000 a-year for a family of four.
- AB 62 allows students who attend a virtual charter school to play high school sports in Wisconsin.
- AB 118 allows students to take virtual classes in a charter school or traditional school during the next school year. Currently open enrollment rules mean kids must take in-person classes.
- AB 119 ends Wisconsin’s open enrollment cap of just three outside school districts. This plan would allow students to apply to more virtual schools, and give them a better chance of finding an open spot.
“The most pressing bill from the hearing is AB 118,” Rep. Jeremey Thiesfeldt told The Center Square. “It allows school districts to maintain their open enrollment students who choose virtual education for the ’21-22 school year,” he said.
“The law dictates that open enrollment students must physically attend school in the district they select,” Thiesfeldt continued. “Since the application period for open enrollment began on February 1st and ends on April 30th, it is important for students to know which school they will be attending as soon as possible.”
Thiesfeldt said AB 59 aims to bring equality to the income requirements in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the Racine Parental Choice Program, and the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program.
That legislation also expands eligibility to more families though the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, he said.
Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, says the idea in the legislature is to increase school choice in Wisconsin so that more kids have a shot at an educational choice best suited to the student and his or her family.
“Virtual school options are numerous in Wisconsin, which was not the case in 1999 when the language limiting the number of open enrollment applications was put into statute,” Loudenback said. “AB 119 removes the limit on the number of virtual charter schools a student can apply to under open enrollment.”
Even if the bills pass the Assembly and Senate, their future is less than certain. Gov. Tony Evers has been clear since his days as state superintendent that he is not a fan of school choice or allowing students to leave traditional public schools.
Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.