Editor’s note: The following commentary was released earlier this week by Wisconsin Spotlight and appears on its website at wisconsinspotlight.com.
With a bold mission of changing Wisconsin’s educational landscape, the state’s leading policy and advocacy organizations have formed the Wisconsin Coalition for Education Freedom.
The coalition includes Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin, American Federation for Children Wisconsin Chapter, the Badger Institute, K12/Stride, School Choice Wisconsin/School Choice Wisconsin Action, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.
Unprecedented in its strength and scope, the new organization seeks to empower parents and expand educational opportunities for students.
“Never before has there been a stronger coalition for parental choice in Wisconsin,” said School Choice Wisconsin president Nicholas Kelly. “Now is the time to change the educational landscape in Wisconsin to put parents and students rightfully first.”
The organizations will blend their unique expertise and experience to inform the public about key educational reforms and pursue far-reaching policy goals that will improve Wisconsin’s educational outcomes, according to a press release.
This is also the first time that non-traditional partners from the business and grassroots communities have strategically joined traditional education reform groups to show the importance of taking action now.
Wisconsin’s public schools are failing to make the grade, despite record spending and an unprecedented level of federal funding in the form of COVID aid.
Last year, just 27.5% of Wisconsin students in grades 3-8 and 10th were proficient in English Language Arts on the state’s Forward Exam, a 16.41% reduction from 2019. Math proficiency dropped to 27%, down 20.59% from 2019.
Just 6.3% of students in the Beloit School District tested at grade level or better, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. A staggering 4.2% of all Milwaukee Public School students were proficient in math last school year.
“Wisconsin’s reading and math proficiency are falling, and this is having a negative impact on the employability of our workforce,” said Scott Manley, WMC Executive Vice President of Government Relations.
“Improving the quality of education in Wisconsin schools is critically important to meeting the workforce needs of employers, and school choice for all families is an important policy solution to get us there. The status quo simply isn’t acceptable.”
The coalition plans to develop a comprehensive education agenda that policymakers can enact in the upcoming legislative session. Additionally, the partnering organizations will work in concert to educate the public about the state of education in Wisconsin, the benefits of school choice for families and what a successful path to reform looks like moving forward.
“We have countless parents in our grassroots network who have been able to take advantage of the educational options already available in our state,” said AFP Wisconsin Legislative Director Megan Novak. “But there continue to be far too many barriers for families who simply want the best education for their children. By empowering parents and engaging with Wisconsinites, we can ensure that never happens again in our state.”
In the coming months, the coalition will meet with elected officials, families, community groups and others to talk about the importance of education freedom as it develops a range of policies creating greater school choice and advancing other crucial education reforms.
“The fight for educational freedom has long been a struggle against those protecting special interests. Opponents hold funding advantages, but the choice movement has the support of families,” concluded AFC Wisconsin State Director Justin Moralez.
“With the enhanced coalition and a historic parental awakening, school choice has never been in a better position to serve the needs of Wisconsin families.”