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Pro-Voucher Group Seeks Student Info For Marketing Efforts

Requests Include Names, Addresses And Phone Numbers


A statewide group promoting school choice has requested student information from 30 Wisconsin public school districts. School Choice Wisconsin plans to use the data to market to families in hopes they will switch to private schools….taking state education dollars with them.

In a letter to public school districts, School Choice Wisconsin cited an open records statute it claims allows it to access the names of students, their home address, telephone numbers and class grade.

School Choice Wisconsin president Jim Bender contended that the group wasn’t collecting sensitive information from school districts.

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“At no point did we request any private information, no academic information. We simply were trying to augment our mailing list,” Bender said.

He said they’ve received good responses from most of the districts.

Green Bay Area School District is currently compiling information on its 22,500 students and will inform parents of the data’s release, except in cases where parents have already opted out.

But the district’s legal counsel, Melissa Theil Collar, said a third-party request for student information like this is unprecedented.

“What parents typically think about ‘directory data’ as, is information that can be released so my student can be in the yearbook, so my student can be listed in the newspaper for being on the honor roll.”

The liberal group, One Wisconsin Now, exposed the request. Mike Brown is that group’s deputy director and opposes giving state taxpayer money to voucher schools.

“We’re paying millions of dollars a year for a private school voucher program that independent studies have shown has not improved student achievement,” Brown said. “And now what we have is voucher industry lobbyists forcing districts to turn over minor’s personal information.”

Jim Bender, with School Choice Wisconsin, said the 30 districts they contacted were an initial group and they plan to send more requests starting next week.