Parents flood Wisconsin private school choice enrollment, crash state website

“Due to high volume, the system is temporarily unavailable,” read a note at the Department of Public Instruction’s website.
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The Wisconsin State Capitol
The Wisconsin State Capitol
(timhughes/Getty)

It’s the latest snapshot of just how many parents in Wisconsin want to explore educational options for their kids.

Tuesday was the first day for parents to enroll in the state’s Private School Choice Program. By midday, the state’s website crashed because of a flood of applications.

“Due to high volume, the system is temporarily unavailable,” read a note at the Department of Public Instruction’s website.

Jim Bender with School Choice Wisconsin is not surprised.

“We know from talking to schools that interest in the program is very high. Many new parents are seeking options,” Bender said.

Bender said it won't be known just how many more parents will opt their kids out of traditional public schools until the fall.

But the trend is that more parents will make a choice.

Enrollment figures from last year showed more students enrolled in Wisconsin’s four school choice programs.

While Tuesday brought a flood of parents to Wisconsin’s private school enrollment, next week could see even more parents apply for the state’s Public School Open Enrollment, which begins next week.

Bender said parents shouldn’t have to wait, either for enrollment periods or overwhelmed websites, to improve their child’s education.

“Open enrollment periods for both public and private schools are an outdated method for connecting parents with schools. Over the last two years, parents have looked for education solutions – but in real time,” Bender explained. “Having to wait to apply, and then even longer to enroll, doesn’t work anymore.”

The interest in school choice comes after another year when public schools in the state saw mixed reactions to the coronavirus, and saw a slide in test scores.

The enrollment periods come after former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson told a crowd at a school choice event in Green Bay last week that school choice in the state needs to be expanded.

“Why should there be restrictions on people having choice?” Thompson asked. “Why should we not have everybody have choice?”