While Opponents Call for More Regulation …

Published October 1, 1998

Having lost the court battle on vouchers, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction proposed–but was quickly forced to withdraw–a new strategy to limit participation in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.

The Department sought to require that private schools seeking to participate in the choice program agree to be bound by hundreds of pages of state and federal regulations currently imposed on public schools in the state. State Senator Robert Welch (R-Redgranite) immediately led a legislative effort against the proposed new regulations.

“This would have ben death through regulation,” said Welch, a school choice advocate and chairman of the Senate Rules Committee. “We got the Department of Public Instruction to write to Wisconsin schools and say that the department . . . would not enforce the federal regulations. We’ll probably have 80 schools participating as a result. If the regulations had stood, we wouldn’t have had eight.”

The Washington, DC-based Institute for Justice, which represents the plaintiff-parents in the Milwaukee voucher lawsuit, argued that the proposed regulations were invalid. The statute authorizing the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program narrowly defines the type of requirements that can be applied to private schools participating in the program; according to the Institute, the Department of Public Instruction’s proposed requirements exceeded that narrow scope.

In the face of such spirited defense of the choice program, the Department withdrew its proposal for the stultifying new regulations.

“This was a major victory in the fight against private school regulations,” declared the Institute’s litigation director Clint Bolick.

The Department also shelved a proposal to exclude single-sex private schools from the choice program. Lawmakers had made it clear they would take action against such an attempt by the Department to subvert the intent of the legislature.