Despite a gut-wrenching Packers loss on Sunday, Wisconsinites have reason to celebrate.

It’s School Choice Week!

While the push for greater parental empowerment must continue, it’s also a good time to reflect on how far our state has come. We have near year-round open enrollment. We have a healthy and robust statewide school choice program. Many districts have embraced charter schools and offer parents a variety of educational options.

The pandemic has choked off some of this choice. And some districts’ online offerings have been less than acceptable. It is important here to note the difference between online charter schools that were created from the ground up to serve students using internet-based platforms, and the sometimes scattershot zoom-based lectures upon which some traditional brick and mortar schools have been relying since March.

I volunteer to help coordinate the thousands of families who CHOOSE virtual schools for their students. They exercise school choice, selecting schools whose teachers are trained how to reach kids, even if they aren’t physically in the same space. Schools whose curricula were developed to be administered via an online platform. Students have been thriving in these schools in Wisconsin and across the country for almost two decades.  These schools operate across the state, and I’m happy to say parents who wish to choose to educate their children online have a lot of options in Wisconsin.

Created and led by parent volunteers, our Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families was formed to protect educational choices here and make sure parents’ and families’ voices are heard in the Capitol and around the state.

Together with our fellow parents, families, teachers, and friends, we educate policy makers and others on why we chose a virtual school for our children; how these schools work; the close, working relationship we have with our teachers and administrators; and more. We are proud allies with and often work along side a wide array of organizations that champion educational options for Wisconsin families, including School Choice Wisconsin, The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, The MacIver Institute, The Badger Institute, The American Federation for Children and more. All will be celebrating School Choice this week in their own way.

We should trust parents with a wide array of options and resources to allow their students the best possible opportunity to thrive.

Every Wisconsin family is unique. Every student has unique needs. We should trust parents with a wide array of options and resources to allow their students the best possible opportunity to thrive.

The WCVSF believes when you empower parents with options for their young learners, Wisconsin is a better state. We oppose efforts to limit parental choices in education, specifically those that target public and private school choice, open enrollment and special needs scholarship programs.

We’ve been subject to such mistrust in the past (years ago several powerful, well-funded political forces almost successfully shut down all online schools here!) We believe efforts to limit educational options in Wisconsin show a distrust of Wisconsin’s parents and leave kids in the crosshairs of a political battle where the best interests of children are often not a priority. 

When educational options are limited, Wisconsin loses. Conversely, when parents are trusted with the educational direction and choices for their children, Wisconsin Wins.

Thanks to our efforts and the foresight of some Governors and dozens of legislators who have served the interests of Wisconsin families over the last three decades, most Wisconsin families have a choice.  There is, of course, still work to do here. For example, there are still income and accessibility barriers that must be overcome, and our virtual charter students deserve the same access to their home districts’ extra curricular offerings as homeschooled kids have.  But, as we celebrate School Choice Week across the nation, we should acknowledge and appreciate the fact that Wisconsin families have more options than do our peers in several other states across the country.

So, on behalf of the Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families, let me say, happy School Choice Week. Here’s to making more and more leaders feel proud and comfortable to proclaim. “I Trust Parents!”

Ty Babinski, of West Salem, is the President of the Wisconsin Coalition for Virtual School families.