School Choice Under Assault

In Evers’ budget proposal and on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Vote for Brian Hagedorn.

Wisconsin’s very successful and popular school voucher programs are currently under assault by Democratic Governor Tony Evers who last week called for a freeze in the voucher program. For now, the legislature – led by Republican leadership – will stand firm against Evers.

But, depending on the outcome of the upcoming elections, school choice could face a much bigger threat – the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Wisconsin has an incredibly successful school voucher program; around 40,000 low-income, predominantly minority students use a school voucher to attend a private school of their choosing. In Milwaukee, 84 percent of private schools in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program are identified as religious. Many of those schools are incredibly successful, and according to a study, Catholic and Lutheran choice schools outperform traditional Milwaukee Public Schools on the state mandated math and reading tests. Religious education works in Milwaukee for many low-income students.

But, liberal judges and attorneys, for decades, have argued that school vouchers are unconstitutional and a violation of the Establishment Clause, which, in short, prohibits government from “respecting an establishment of religion.” This includes Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson who previously dissented in cases about the constitutionality of vouchers on those grounds.

So, given how Judge Lisa Neubauer has embraced the legacy and ideology of Abrahamson, voters deserve to know whether Neubauer believes the school voucher program is unconstitutional and should be ended for religious private schools.