Judge Holds that DPI “Perfection Rule” is Invalid
The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) just won a major victory in its lawsuit challenging several Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) policies governing applications to participate in a parental choice program. The judge agreed with WILL that DPI’s actions do not comply with statutory rulemaking requirements and are therefore invalid.
The Quotes: WILL Education Counsel Cory Brewer stated, “This ruling is a win for parents, kids, and school choice in Wisconsin. As we noted in our lawsuit, DPI has been exceeding its authority under state law in how it administers the parental choice programs and making up the rules as it goes along. These programs were created to be a simple, easy to use option for eligible families, and today’s ruling helps restore that goal.”
Carol Shires, SCW Vice President of Operations, stated, “This ruling removes roadblocks for families and recognizes the real purpose of school choice: to open doors for parents to find the best educational opportunity for their children. Thankfully, common sense and sanity prevailed in this case.”
Catholic Memorial High School of Waukesha, Inc. President, Donna Bembenek, stated, “Catholic Memorial is proud to stand alongside WILL, SCWA, and Roncalli Catholic Schools to protect the rights of parents to send their kids to a school of their choosing. These programs were designed to create educational access for parents, and this ruling affirms that goal.
Additional Background: DPI administers Wisconsin’s parental choice programs, including oversight of the application process. In our lawsuit, we asserted that DPI created an unlawful “perfection” rule as part of the application and enrollment process for the various choice programs. One aspect of the perfection rule is that DPI requires schools to obtain a document from parents that shows their residential address, and DPI itself has specified by guidance document which residency documents are acceptable and which are not. This allows the government bureaucracy to unlawfully adopt additional rules ad hoc outside of the rulemaking process.
An additional part of the perfection rule is that DPI demands an absolute perfect match between the address and parental names on the application, as compared to the address and parental names on the residency document. DPI has published a document that specifies which aspects of addresses and names must match “perfectly” and which do not. For example, a student who resides at South Main Street in the City of South Milwaukee would be allowed to write they live on “S. Main St.” but could not write their municipality as “S. Milwaukee.” According to DPI’s regulations, failure to abide by DPI’s arbitrary perfection policy results in the student being ineligible for the choice program unless the application is “corrected.”
- Decision and Order, February 2024