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The City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) have spent years trying to keep vacant and underutilized school buildings from being sold to Milwaukee’s charter schools or private schools. WILL has been involved in documenting the vacant and underutilized schools in Milwaukee, the experience schools have had with the City, and the costs that have accrued as a result of the City’s refusal to sell.


The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the newest federal law on K-12 education, replacing No Child Left Behind. ESSA gives states more power – in exchange for federal funds – to set education policy. To comply with ESSA, Wisconsin must implement its state plan, which includes creating a new accountability system and federal report card. WILL provided legal analysis and input on Wisconsin’s state plan.


For the better part of the last decade, no piece of legislation has loomed larger in public policy debates in Wisconsin than Act 10, the collective bargaining reform law passed in 2011. The controversial budget repair bill, introduced by Governor Scott Walker in the first weeks of his first term, represented a fundamental break with the past and a new era for state and local governments in the Badger State.


During the Obama administration, the federal Department of Education began an unprecedented intervention into America’s classrooms. Federal bureaucrats issued guidance to, and threatened investigation of, state and local school officials to force changes in schools suspension policies in order to combat racial discrimination. Since 2017, WILL has examined the impact of these policy changes on Wisconsin schools.


Current school funding is a complex combination of state, local and federal aid. Funding in districts is largely based on antiquated revenue limits that have cemented in place funding gaps for 25 years. Students are worth more, or less, depending on where they happen to live, or whether they attend a choice or charter school. WILL’s priorities for K-12 finance include public school spending transparency, student-centered funding models, and closing the funding gaps between school sectors.


The COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the United States in early 2020 – quickly disrupting every element of American life. K-12 education seemingly changed overnight. School buildings closed and students and teachers were forced to arrange virtual learning on the fly. The federal government passed massive relief bills that pumped millions of federal dollars into K-12 schools. And teachers unions and parents fought over in-person learning and the careful balance between health and education. WILL boldly entered this new and uncertain policy environment and provided groundbreaking research, polling, and advocacy.


The eligibility categories in the Minority Undergraduate Retention Program amount to discrimination based on race, national origin, and alienage, a practice clearly forbidden by the Wisconsin Constitution.

Faust v. Vilsack

A federal lawsuit challenging the unconstitutional race discrimination in the American Rescue Plan’s provision to offer loan forgiveness based on racial categories. WILL represents five farmers from four states who would be eligible for the federal government’s loan forgiveness program, but for their race.