New WILL Policy Brief | Back to the Future – Answering attacks from opponents of Wisconsin education reform before they make them

February 8, 2017 – Milwaukee, WI – Today’s release of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget will launch a roughly four month debate about K-12 education policy in Wisconsin.  The debate, unfortunately, is expected to draw out the same tired attacks on the status of K-12 education funding, school choice, and various education reforms in the state of Wisconsin. So, rather than waiting for the flurry of press statements from status quo politicians, the policy team at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) hopped in the DeLorean (with some help from Doc Brown) and travelled ‘Back to the Future’ to respond to upcoming attacks

While we didn’t pick up a Sports Almanac, we did pick up the arguments one can expect during the upcoming state budget battle with regard to education.  The brief can be found here and includes the following attacks on education reform in Wisconsin:

 “School choice drains money from public schools.”


  • School choice critics are arguing that when a student leaves a school district, the district should still get public money to educate a child they no longer teach. That makes no sense.
  • The elimination of the state’s voucher programs would actually decrease revenue to public schools.

“Governor Walker has decreased spending on K-12 education.”


  • The Obama stimulus plan temporarily inflated the amount of money Wisconsin spent on public schools. Once federal funding declined, Wisconsin faced cuts to K-12 spending. Since 2012, Wisconsin has increased spending on K-12 public schools every year.
  • There is little evidence that increased spending on K-12 public schools actually leads to improved student outcomes

 “Parents use tax dollars to send their children to unaccountable voucher schools.”


  • The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program is the most regulated voucher program in the entire country.
  • Private schools participating in the parental choice program must have accreditation, degreed teachers, appropriate curriculum, and accountable board governance. They also have strict financial standards to ensure that there is no fraud.

“Students at public schools outperform students who attend private schools with a voucher or a charter school.”


  • The recent ACT and Forward Exam results show that students in both the Wisconsin and Milwaukee parental choice programs, along with non-MPS charter schools in Milwaukee, outperformed their peers in public schools when socio-economic status of the students is taken into account.

 “Okay, if choice schools perform better than public schools, that’s only because private schools can “cream” the best students.”


  • State law prohibits private schools from taking the best students. It is a blind admission process.
  • No study has ever proven the “creaming” claim.

“But voucher schools do not have to educate children with disabilities.”


  • Private schools are not permitted to discriminate against students under both state and federal law. A four year investigation from the Obama Justice Department found no evidence of discrimination in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.
  • According to the best estimates, 7-14% of students in the Milwaukee choice program have special needs. Private schools currently educate these children with no additional federal funds.

“Act 10 has destroyed teachers!”


  • Act 10 has given teachers more freedom to negotiate their pay. Merit pay and individualized salary negotiations are rewarding the best teachers.
  • Since Act 10, there has been little change in average teacher experience, compensation, or the number of students per teacher.

WILL’s entire policy brief, Back to the Future: Answering attacks from opponents of Wisconsin education reform – before they make them, can be found HERE.

Share This