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VP Mike Pence

VP Mike Pence Celebrates School Choice in the Capitol

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the Milwaukee Parental School Choice Program (MPCP). School choice allows low income families to send their children to certain private schools that qualify for the program. The Milwaukee Choice Program is the first choice program in the country. To celebrate, Vice President Mike Pence and the Secretary of Education Betsy De Vos came to the Capitol, along with hundreds of school choice students from around the state. This week I posted the graph below with numbers that show the success of the Milwaukee Choice Program. It appears there are some myths about school choice that I’d like to address.


Cherry picking: Choice schools do not “cherry pick” their students. The school is required to tell DPI how many seats they have open, and they can’t deny anyone who qualifies until all the seats are taken. Furthermore, students and parents pick the school; the school doesn’t pick the students. Students who are doing well at Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) schools don’t change schools. MPS has some really good schools.

Choice school students aren’t tested the same as public schools: Choice schools with at least 20 choice pupils must administer all the same tests in reading, mathematics, and science that are required for public school pupils. Choice students follow all federal laws for testing. For reading and math, they are tested each year in grades 3 through 8, and again one time in high school. For science, students are tested once in elementary, middle, and high school. Choice schools use the Wisconsin Forward Exam to assess their pupils in grades 3 through 8 for English language arts, math, and science.

Choice schools don’t take special needs students: State law prohibits discrimination during admissions for students with special needs, or any child for that matter 119.23(3)(a). In January 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice ended a four-year investigation on parental choice programs, finding no discrimination against students with special needs.

The School Choice Demonstration Project is a long-term rigorous study of the MPCP conducted by academics at the University of Arkansas and University of Wisconsin. These scholars found that approximately 7-14% of students in the MPCP had some form of disability compared to 19% of students in MPS. Private schools do not have the same incentives to classify students as “disabled” as public schools do. According to the research, students in the MPCP are about 12.4% less likely to be classified as “disabled” as children in public schools. This is, in part, because private schools do not receive the same additional federal and state funding to educate children with disabilities as public schools do.

In 2016, the Special Needs Scholarship Program was created in order to better serve students with special needs who want to attend a private school.

The more choices we can provide students and parents in education, the more we can assure that each and every student finds the right path to success. Every student responds differently to educational techniques and has a unique set of abilities and aspirations. From traditional public schools to virtual programs, homeschooling to choice schools, the future of education in Wisconsin looks positive. In ten years, student education will be vastly and far more encompassing than in the last 100 years. Teachers will embrace the future of education and our students will benefit greatly. 

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Representative Janel Brandtjen
State Capitol, Room 12 West
PO Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708

Toll-Free (888) 534-0022 or (608) 267-2367 | |