Enough is Enough, it’s Time to Empower Parents

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It’s no secret that Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) is failing students, their families, and their community.

Despite attempts by the WI Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to cover-up for failing schools, the real data shows the truth. One third of MPS students will not graduate with their classmates and half of MPS students are chronically absent; those that do make it across the stage at graduation time are not proficient in core subjects with over half of MPS students are rated as being below basic in English Language Arts. The numbers are strikingly worse for black children, with less than 9% meeting basic proficiency metrics. Year after year, MPS has received a D or F from DPI. And while MPS has consistently ranked at the bottom of our state, countless other schools throughout Wisconsin are also not meeting the needs of students and families with a statewide average rating barely reaching a C by DPI’s 2021 standards, thanks to a paltry score of 59/100.

Clearly something, or someone, isn’t working.

That is why Senator Darling and I have introduced the Empowering Parents Education Reform Package, meeting the needs of those who our education system is supposed to serve: students and families.

The first bill in this package will reform the structure of MPS, something supported by roughly 77% of MPS parents, by breaking it into a number of smaller school districts. MPS is roughly three and a half times larger than the next largest district, which insulates elected school board members from accountability and makes them subject to the whims of unions and special interests, not parents and students. His disconnect is especially evident in the district’s routine closure to in-person instruction. With continued failures at the administrative level and no real change in sight, it’s clear that someone needs to make the hard decisions that MPS refuses to make themselves.

Second, this legislation will establish a Parental Bill of Rights to ensure that parents are at the center of a child’s education. This will grant parents access not only to view the routinely politicized and neo-racist curriculum that schools and teachers are actively trying to hide, but also ensure that parents can view the classroom first hand, opt their child out of certain instructional content, be informed of any violence or criminal actions reported on schools grounds, and guarantee that parents are not barred from local school board meetings. It’s time to guarantee that that parents, not government officials, are at the center of directing the religious, moral, conscientious, and medical decisions for their children.

Despite union and bureaucratic screeds to the contrary, parents are not domestic terrorists and children do not belong to the community.

Finally, this legislative package guarantees school accountability by funding students, not systems, by eliminating the restrictions on school choice in our state and establishing a micro-Ed Savings Account program. Under this bill every single family in Wisconsin will be able to take their tax dollars to the school of their choice and those families who choose to remain in public schools will be able to enroll their child in a supplemental course at a school, university, or technical college to help meet their child’s unique learning needs. These reforms will empower families and ensure that school districts are held accountable, rather than the status quo of leaving students stranded in failed schools.

Our state was a pioneer in the 1990’s at implementing bi-partisan school choice and for a time served as a model for the nation. Since then, Democrat control of the Department of Public Instruction and entrenched special interests within the education establishment has led to stagnation, leaving our students behind and Wisconsin families lacking options.

It’s time for transformational reform in our K-12 system, time to fight for families, and time to give every child a chance to succeed.

It’s time to give parents and students a choice.

Senator Roger Roth is a Republican State Senator in Wisconsin who represents the 19th Senate District. You can contact him at Sen.Roth@legis.wi.gov