MADISON – Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) – the combined state chamber and manufacturers’ association – filed an amicus brief with the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday, urging the court to reject a lawsuit seeking to end the state’s school choice and independent charter programs.
The lawsuit appeals to the Supreme Court directly, rather than allow the case to proceed through the lower courts. WMC Litigation Center Executive Director – and WMC’s attorney – Scott Rosenow argues in the brief that the lawsuit is inappropriate for the Supreme Court to resolve because the state’s highest court is not a fact-finding institution.
“This Court’s Internal Operating Procedures confirm that it ‘is not a fact-finding tribunal…it generally will not exercise its original jurisdiction in matters involving contested issues of fact,’” the brief reads. And as Rosenow argues, the Petitioners will make many factual assertions about the school choice programs at issue, and the intervening parties are likely to dispute some or all of those allegations. The brief continues to assert, “if any Respondent or intervenor in this case disputes the Petitioners’ factual assertions, that dispute is reason alone to deny the petition.”
WMC also argues in its brief that thousands of families would be devastated and the entire education system disrupted if the school choice and charter programs were to end. Wisconsin, home to the first school choice program in the nation, currently has over 50,000 students enrolled in programs across the state. These students outperform their public school peers on standardized test scores, despite economic and socioeconomic disadvantages.
“If the Petitioners prevail in this case, the negative impacts for the students currently using these choice and charter programs—and for our state as a whole—would be far reaching and long term,” added Rosenow in the brief. “Striking down these voucher programs would throw our state’s educational system into chaos.”
Employers have made it abundantly clear that they need students graduating with both the hard and soft skills to succeed in a career. Unfortunately, nearly three-quarters of Wisconsin businesses say the public K-12 system is not preparing students for the workforce – not surprising given that roughly six in 10 students cannot read or do math at grade level. That is why the business community and a large majority of voters support school choice and charter school options.
“Employers need students to graduate from high school with the skills to be a productive member of the workforce,” shared WMC’s Senior Director of Workforce, Education & Employment Policy Rachel Ver Velde in recent legislative testimony. “Employers view choice and charter schools as valuable partners to accomplish this goal.”
According to a recent poll, 67 percent of likely Wisconsin voters support school choice, including a majority of republicans, independents and democrats.