ON-Lion Letter

Opponents of education reform are constantly proclaiming that private schools participating in Wisconsin's school-choice programs are unaccountable -- operating with taxpayer money without any monitoring or oversight from the state government.  Contrary to this favorite talking point, however, these schools are actually subject to many measures and regulations from the state, and some are more punitive and burdensome than anything to which public schools are subjected.

In early December, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty in Milwaukee released a report that examines existing academic-performance measurements applied to private schools in the choice program.  Every year, each school participating in the choice programs must meet at least one of four standards that relates to grade advancement, daily attendance, academic progress, and parental involvement.  In analyzing these measurements, how DPI interprets them, and public-school accountability measurements, WILL's "Let's Begin By Understanding Where We Are" reaches four conclusions:

1.      State accountability laws on the school-choice programs are at least as rigorous -- and probably enforced more aggressively -- than anything imposed on public schools.  Unlike public schools, though, schools in the choice programs must meet their mark or be immediately dropped from the programs, which will cause many of them to close.

2.      The Department of Public Instruction interprets the accountability laws in ways that deviate from the statutory language, making them more demanding than originally intended.

3.      Policymakers should consider the current accountability scheme on schools in choice programs before implementing any new regulations.   

4.      New accountability measures should be tailored with an appreciation for the value of diverse approaches and parental choice.  There are a number of ways to measure school performance, and different families will place different weight on these measures and the outcomes that they reflect.

The report is available online.

Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation substantially supports WILL.

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