Wisconsin’s other school choice option opens next week



(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s open enrollment period begins next week, and again thousands of parents are getting ready to send their children to a different school.

The state’s Department of Public Instruction this week said open enrollment begins Monday.

“Beginning Feb. 5, 2024, and running through April 30, 2024, parents and guardians can apply to send their children to any public school district in Wisconsin during the 2024-25 school year through the open enrollment program,’ DPI said in its announcement. “School districts are required to notify applicants by June 7, 2024, on the status of their open enrollment application.”

Open enrollment allows parents to send children to different public schools.

In Wisconsin that meant more than 70,000 students for the current school year.

“Every parent likes having options for their children’s education. However, some people really want school choice within a public school district, and it’s important that the state serves them,” Quinton Klabon, senior research director for the Institute for Reforming Government told The Center Square. “Open enrollment means parents can send their children to any district in the state if there is room and they can figure out transportation. Many states don’t allow this, so we need to celebrate it.”

Klabon said 9% of students in district schools attend a school outside of their home district.

Klabon said that makes open enrollment “the biggest school choice program by far.”

Klabon said there are some weaknesses with open enrollment, however.

“Policymakers should make sure that they’re looking at open enrollment, too. Districts can reject students for a few reasons. Over 6,300 were rejected last year due to ‘lack of space.’ Yet, we know open enrollment has dropped everywhere in Wisconsin, opening up space,” Klabon explained. “There is a bill being debated now that would provide more funding for kids using open enrollment, which would help. Oversight may be needed, though, on districts that are finding excuses to keep students out.”

Open enrollment varies from school to school, and there are some schools that are net-student-losers and others that have gained students over the years.

DPI’s own numbers show Milwaukee, Racine, Green Bay, Madison and West Allis schools have lost thousands of students to open enrollment. The same numbers show McFarland, Grantsburg, Medford, Ashwaubenon, and Appleton schools have gained thousands of students because of open enrollment.

Parents can find out more about open enrollment at the DPI’s website here.

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