Government vs. Parental Choice

“We live the Wisconsin Idea by incubating new educational opportunities, sharing what we learn along the way, and supporting efforts to close opportunity gaps and eliminate achievement gaps.” Vision statement of the UW Office of Educational Opportunity (OEO) which reviews applications for charter schools. (

Sounds like a great goal to serve some families in Wisconsin. It has not been well received by the government school district in Madison, however.  

Nevertheless, some tax paying parents in Wisconsin prefer to choose schools for their kids rather than let the government choose for them. The Wisconsin State Journal reported that Madison school Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham fears that approval of parental choice schools is done “at the expense of our public school students.” If the government schools aren’t satisfying the parents in the school district, shouldn’t they have an option? Charter schools aren’t taking money from public schools; some parents are enrolling their kids in other schools. (

In opposing the UW Office of Educational Opportunity vision, Cheatham has claimed that “our schools will be serving students so well that there isn’t a need.” Well, that is how it is supposed to work, not to prevent the competition from competing. Some parents still see a need. “If we are ever going to get equity we are going to have to focus on outcomes over institutional self-interests,” stated Gary Bennett, OEO Director.

Data released by the Department of Public Instruction shows that students in the Parental Choice Programs are outperforming their peers on the ACT. “Higher scores. Lower cost. The continued growth of the programs is good for students and taxpayers in Wisconsin,” according to School Choice Wisconsin.

What is the lesson the Madison school board seems to be teaching parents in their community? 

Jim Maas
Past Chair, Libertarian Party of Wisconsin

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