School Choice For All


Jan. 27, 2023
Perspective by Rep. Scott Allen (R – 97th AD)


In 2014, Emily* Rosas began attending kindergarten. She was a bright young student, testing above average in reading and math. And yet, Emily found herself the subject of constant harassment and bullying. Why? Well, Emily has a form of speech delay known as aphasia.

Emily continued to be bullied through her youth, and, by the time second grade came to a close, Emily told her mom she would rather die than go back to school. Emily’s parents have investigated independent schools and found them to be much healthier for Emily.

And yet, they are forced to keep Emily in a government-run school, because they cannot afford the private school tuition.

Unfortunately, this story is all too familiar to many Wisconsinites. Current school choice policies deny students the right to the most suitable education. Under the current state of the Wisconsin education system, individuals are being categorized by earnings and given the opportunity to receive funding for school choice according to those categories.

It is to that end that I advocate for school choice for all.

As you know, school choice already exists in Wisconsin, albeit in a severely restricted manner. Under current law, families can receive state funding to enroll in any school deemed fit for the individual student if that family falls below 220% of the federal poverty level. Why 220%? There is nothing inherently special about the number 220%, rather, it was an arbitrary designation created to draw a line.

For proponents of the status quo, the 220% cap ensures that enough students are forced to remain in the government school system, thus keeping it well funded. The removal of the cap, they argue, would mean a potential exodus from government schools and would cause potential stress on government school budgets. In a free market, competition creates improvement and stimulates efficiency, quality, and productivity. If parents were given the option to move their students to a better school, the government schools would be incentivized to do better. If the government schools are already performing well, as so many already are, then there will be no exodus of students.

For those who presently have the opportunity to engage in school choice, the results are positive. According to the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty’s most recent Apples to Apples Study released in May 2022, “Proficiency exceeds traditional public schools 3.05% in the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program.”

Further, that study detailed that removing the income limit on school choice would lead to $100 million in economic growth in Madison alone; by increasing the amount of college graduates, thereby increasing lifetime earnings and leading to more consumer spending.

Parents know what is best for their children’s education. Giving parents of all income levels the opportunity to choose the right school will open up more opportunities for greater student success and incentivize school excellence. Removing the arbitrary income limit on school choice is the right move for everyone.


*Name changed to maintain privacy







Rep. Scott Allen represents the 97th Assembly District, serving Waukesha, Genesee, and Mukwonago.