“The Bradley’s Have a Renewed Focus on College”

“A blessing, truly a gift.”  That is how Daniel Bradley would describe the Wisconsin Parental Choice program, which was launched beginning with the 2013-14 school year, making School Choice available to families outside of Milwaukee and Racine for the first time.

The Bradley family’s five school aged children were chosen to receive a voucher through the programs random lottery (the program was limited to 500 students its first year) and enrolled in Rock County Christian School. Bradley has worked for the Frito-Lay Company in Beloit as a forklift operator for 13 years; his wife is in school studying to be an accountant.  Private school tuition was deemed unaffordable.

“It’s made such a difference,” says Bradley. “Before, none of them were doing well in school.  They were behind and always in trouble.  There were no plans or talk of going to college.”  Now, the family has begun setting money aside for higher education, with a renewed focus they see it as a possibility.

Much of the transformation in the Bradley children has come from the compassionate, attentive and disciplined experience that Rock County Christian School prides themselves on. “When my kids get home, they sit down for two hours, they don’t fight, and they work together.”

Bradley’s son, Nathaniel, credits his teachers for helping him become a better student. “The teachers are a lot more one-on-one,” he said.  “You can go to them for help, and they’ll be there because there are less kids.”  Janet Befus, Administrative Assistant at Rock County Christian School noticed the positive change throughout the year in the Bradley children as well, “they are engaged, they enjoy the service projects, they are continuously improving and you can see the pride they feel when their accomplishments are recognized.”

Bradley says his son was in a class of 30, now he’s in a class of eight – which helps teachers give students more personalized attention.  “I used to have to e-mail teachers every day trying to get help – I couldn’t get answers for weeks,” said Bradley.  “Now, I e-mail his teacher, and I get an answer within an hour.  And if, for example, he’s not doing well in math, there are tutors, teachers, and even the principal focuses on how to help him improve.”

Bradley says every one of his five children in the program have “jumped up” since entering the program.  “They’re all A-B students” he says.  His fifth grader is now doing what his ninth-grader was doing the year before.

But Bradley emphasized that his enthusiasm for the program is not just about the schooling; it has improved their family life, as well.  Much of that has to do with all the children attending the same school and having shared experiences.   Bradley said he loves that his kids interact with one another throughout the day– and smaller class sizes means they get to know their classmates better.

As they entered private school, the Bradley family had unique problems, as several of their kids have special needs; speech problems and a diagnosis of ADHD had been roadblocks in the past. Rock County Christian School assesses the needs and works with the individual child so all students can thrive. “They don’t give up,” said Bradley. “Anyone who doesn’t see the benefits has got to be blind.”

Bradley urges other low-income families around the state to take advantage of the program.  “I hate to say it, but the rich get the choice,” he said.  “People like me, a warehouse worker who can’t afford it, now have the same shot.”

Bradley said he also likes the fact that his kids wear uniforms to school, as they are not singled out as being low income.  “You don’t have to worry about the $80 jeans – kids are judged on who they are, not how they dress or their parents’ income,” he said.

“To see the transformation in their child is what every parent wants,” said Bradley.  “You can see your child growing, and wanting to learn, and accepting what there is for the future.  It really makes me, as a father, proud.”