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Ending the school trap

By M.D. Kittle

Wisconsin Spotlight  | Aug. 27, 2020 

MADISON —A bill introduced Tuesday by state Sen. Chris Kapenga would allow parents to open enroll their children outside the usual narrow date window if their home district’s instructional model isn’t in the best interest of their kids. 

The Delafield Republican said the proposal puts parents back in the driver’s seat when it comes to their children education. 

“Many Wisconsin school districts are opting to forgo in-person instruction or utilize hybrid models effectively requiring parents to stay home and act as at-home educators. This can be catastrophic for student achievement and for working parents who can’t afford to stay home,” Kapenga said in a press release. 

Current law allows students to open enroll to another district only if they apply during the spring prior to the fall semester. Kapenga’s bill allows parents to use the alternative open enrollment process to enroll their child in a different district if they believe a virtual, hybrid, or in-person instructional model doesn’t fit their needs. 

It also gives parents the tools to make an enrollment decision without the threat of a veto from their home district. And the proposal removes the enrollment cap that currently limits how many students from a specific district can participate in the state parental school choice programs and allows choice applications to be processed on a rolling basis throughout this coming school year. 

“It is imperative that for the 2020-2021 school year we expand options for parents to use the open enrollment and choice programs to find an instructional model that best fits their child’s needs,” the senator said. “Conversely, if a parent feels that virtual learning is the best option for their children, they should have the opportunity to enroll in a virtual charter or district that has experience in implementing it.”

Kapenga points to data showing some students have experienced serious setbacks with virtual learning as a placeholder for in-person instruction, with some reporting as much as a years’ worth of educational regression. 

“Parents and students should not be trapped in a district utilizing an instructional model that is harmful for their families,” Kapenga said. 

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