Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty
Press Release

Judge Rules DPI Violated State Law in Release of 2019 School Choice Data

WILL sued after DPI selectively released data in violation of state law

By - Sep 18th, 2020 11:55 am

The News: Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Bennett Brantmeier issued a summary judgement ruling in a lawsuit brought by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) that the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) violated state law when the state agency released partial data on Wisconsin’s school choice programs to a select media list ahead of a September 2019 public release. The Court’s decision includes a permanent injunction to prevent DPI from violating state law that says data on Wisconsin’s school choice programs must be released “all at the same time, uniformly, and completely.”

WILL sued DPI in Jefferson County in November 2019 on behalf of School Choice Wisconsin (SCW), Empower Wisconsin journalist Matt Kittle, and WILL Research Director Will Flanders.

The Court’s Decision: Judge Brantmeier ruled that DPI’s actions violated state law by providing press with early access and by releasing incomplete data on Wisconsin’s school choice programs. Judge Brantmeier declined to restrict the state Superintendent’s ability to comment on the data it releases but emphasized that DPI remains bound to release full data sets on equal terms to all Wisconsinites.

Why It Matters: Wisconsin’s state agencies must understand that following state law is not optional. This is another victory for a more accountable state government.

Additionally, the data initially released by DPI did not allow for accurate comparisons between low-income students in the Parental Choice Program with low-income students in public schools. When the data was released in full, it revealed students in Wisconsin’s three Parental Choice programs are outperforming low-income public school peers on the ACT, Aspire, and Forward exams.

The Quotes: WILL Deputy Counsel Lucas Vebber said, “The Court’s decision affirms that DPI violated state law by releasing partial school choice data to select members of the press. This decision ought to remind state agencies and unelected bureaucrats, once again, that they are accountable to state law.”

Jim Bender, President of School Choice Wisconsin said, “The statutes require DPI to be an honest broker when releasing academic data on the Parental Choice Programs. This court victory shows that DPI was being selective in their release of data to drive a biased narrative and that they are prohibited from doing so in the future. A great win for transparency.”

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