New school choice coalition in Wisconsin looks to expand education options

(The Center Square) – A coalition of business and policy groups got the ball rolling on school choice in Wisconsin nearly 30 years ago, and they’re ready to try again.

A number of the state’s conservative groups, school choice groups, and the state’s largest business group are launching a new effort to expand school choice options in the state.

“This partnership really grew out the belief that whether you’re Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and your employers are seeing the need for education when they’re hiring, or you’re Americans for Prosperity and your hearing how important education is to the grassroots organization, we are pulling together a diverse group who believe now is the time for education reform 2.0 for the state of Wisconsin,” the coalition’s co-chair Libby Sobic told The Center Square.

The coalition includes WMC, AFP Wisconsin, along with the American Federation for Children, School Choice Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, the Badger Institute, and the group K-12/Stride.

Sobic said the coalition is launching now because the coronavirus changed how many parents and states are talking about school choice.

“We are seeing states compete for how they can empower parents and provide educational opportunities,” Sobic explained. “That absolutely comes back to the loss of trust that the public school establishment created when they decided to put their own interests above the interests of students and families.”

Sobic said no one really knows what the loss of learning during the coronavirus will mean for kids going forward. But she said the early evidence is not good.

“Families see it everyday, and we’re going to be seeing it for many many years,” Sobic added.

The coalition has a rough plan to expand school choice here in Wisconsin, but Sobic said they will be fleshing that out over the next few months.

The goal is to have something ready by the November election so lawmakers could possibly vote on a school choice expansion as soon as they return to the Capitol in January.

“We want families and parents to be in the driver’s seat, because they know their child the best. And they, once empowered, will make the best decision for their child,” Sobic said. “And the public school establishment really eroded their own system when they decided to put their own interest above parents.”