The history of school choice in Wisconsin

Pioneering educational freedom: The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program was created in 1990 to provide educational freedom and choice to low-income parents in Milwaukee who did not have the financial means to send their children to private schools.

Grassroots growth: As the first school choice program in the nation, Milwaukee is a pioneer in educational reform. Beginning with seven schools and 300 students, the program reached its 15,000-student enrollment cap in 2005. Bipartisan legislation begun with a grassroots effort increased the enrollment cap to 22,500 and introduced standardized testing and accreditation requirements for schools.

Expansion means inclusion: Wisconsin school choice has grown through the creation of the Racine Parental Choice program in 2011 and the statewide Wisconsin Parental Choice Program in 2013. Since 2011, Wisconsin’s state budget has provided for the expansion of choice, while the legislature has eliminated the enrollment cap for the Milwaukee and Racine programs and increased the income eligibility threshold to 300 percent of the federal poverty level.