Want to raise student achievement and lower crime rates in Wisconsin? Then ignore calls from Governor Tony Evers to gut and overregulate parental choice.

The preponderance of scientific research has long shown that parental choice programs improve student achievement for both participating scholarship students and public-school students. No wonder significant majorities parents and voters support choice in education.

There’s also a mounting body of evidence showing that students who participate in private-school choice programs have better longer-term academic outcomes, including higher rates of high-school graduation, college enrollment, and college completion, as well as higher levels of civic engagement and toleration. Educational choice also has positive effects on school safety and students’ long-term mental health.

Want even more evidence? New research shows that Wisconsin’s flagship private-school scholarship for low-income students helps reduce crime.

A just-released study from the University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform examined longer-term outcomes of students who were enrolled in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program—the country’s longest-running modern K-12 scholarship program. Researchers found that the program reduces the incidence of criminal activity and paternity suits among young adults who participated in the program more than a decade ago.

As study authors Corey DeAngelis and Patrick Wolf explain, the students are now in their mid- to late twenties, but the opportunity to attend private schools of their parents’ choosing has had lasting positive effects:

[W]e find that participating in the program in 8th or 9th grade is associated with a statistically significant reduction of around 53 percent in drug-related convictions, 86 percent in property damage convictions, and 38 percent in paternity disputes. … our new results suggest that the Milwaukee voucher program improves low-income urban students’ long-term prospects for life success by helping them avoid both prison and unplanned pregnancies.

These are significant findings, especially given Milwaukee’s high crime rates, which contribute to its ranking as one of the country’s worst cities to live in.

In light of these findings, efforts to stymie Wisconsin’s private-school and public charter school choice programs would be a monumental step backward for students, parents, and taxpayers.

Policymakers should also be wary of default efforts like Evers’ claiming to just want greater “transparency” and “accountability.” They’re just thinly-veiled excuses to regulate programs that are popular and effective to appease defenders of status-quo programs that aren’t. The result is compromised quality and fewer options for parents.