Rick Esenberg, President and General Council for the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, wrote an op-ed for the Journal Sentinel commenting on the U.S. Department of Justices’ investigation into the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). The probe accused the Milwaukee choice program of violating Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Esenberg’s piece was directed towards Emily Mills’ recent column in the Journal Sentinel, “Sen. Ron Johnson’s backdoor maneuver for private schools,” Crossroads, June 26.
Mills’ column argued that Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) was attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of Wisconsinites with his newly proposed amendment in Congress concerning private schools. Esenberg criticized Mills’ argument as being riddled with misstatements of fact and a failure to understand how school choice and disability law work.
Esenberg shares,”The basis for Johnson’s amendment was the investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). Mills makes much of this investigation, writing that the ACLU had cited “evidence” that voucher schools “had openly discriminated against students with various disabilities, forcing them into already underfunded and understaffed public schools.”
There are two problems. First, there was no discrimination, “open” or otherwise. In December 2015, after four years, the DOJ closed its investigation — with no findings of any wrongdoing by private schools in Milwaukee. Mills doesn’t mention this.
Second, the argument that these schools should be regulated just like public schools is wrong on the law and as a matter of policy. Title II only applies to the government. Private schools in the MPCP enroll students whose families use publicly funded vouchers to pay tuition. But just as Wal-Mart does not become a governmental body because some of its customers accept food stamps, these schools do not become public entities because they accept vouchers.”
Johnson’s Amendment would ensure that the Justice Department follows the law and does not seek to investigate alleged “wrongdoing” that, even if it existed, would not be a violation of the law at all. The Justice Department’s investigation was never about protecting kids; it was about the federal government attempting to destroy Wisconsin’s school choice program by forcing schools to provide services for which they receive no funding.