APG: Wisconsin charter schools growing, overcoming law and misperceptions

Author: Gailon Totheroh
Date: September 4, 2021
Source: APG Wisconsin

Wisconsin charter schools are on the rise despite legal hurdles and widespread myths.

First established in 1993, Wisconsin charter schools now number 235 with 14 schools listed as new since last year. That’s a 6% upward trend.

One of the schools listed as new is the Carmen Middle School of Science and Technology South Campus.

The school was categorized as new because of a location move. The school represents a trend allowed under the state’s charter laws. One organization can run multiple schools. Carmen Schools operates three middle schools, three high schools, and an elementary school.

The school’s stated mission is “graduating all students as critical thinkers and self-directed learners who are prepared for success in college, meaningful careers, community involvement and family life.​” U.S. News and World Report honored the high schools in their top category for 2019.

By comparison, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website describes the state’s mission for charter schools: “Wisconsin established charter schools to foster an environment for innovation and parental choice.” The DPI calls them “living laboratories” that impact the overall public school system and demonstrate competition within that system.

One of the ways charter schools demonstrate competition is a standard business concept: failing organizations go defunct when not propped up by government. So standard public schools seldom go out of business regardless of minimal success in improving student outcomes.