NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 5, 2009

Milwaukee is home to America's most vibrant school-choice program, where more than 20,000 students participate, almost all of them minorities.  They have made academic gains and boast higher graduation rates than their peers in public schools. They even save money for taxpayers.  Inevitably, Democrats in the state capital are trying to eviscerate the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, says National Review.

At the end of May, the legislature's Joint Finance Committee approved a series of auditing, accrediting and instructional requirements that will force successful voucher schools to shift resources away from classrooms and into administration.  Several schools will have to comply with new bilingual-education mandates, and even though many immigrant parents choose those schools precisely because they emphasize the rapid acquisition of English instead of native-language maintenance.

Lawmakers also propose to strip funding for school choice, says the Review:

  • With the value of each voucher reduced, private schools will see their payments fall.
  • Meanwhile, public schools will watch their budgets increase by hundreds of dollars per student.
  • This on top of what is already startling financial asymmetry: taxpayers currently hand out $13,468 per student to Milwaukee Public Schools, compared to just $6,607 per student in the school-choice program.
  • In 2008, alone, school choice saved the public almost $32 million; since 1994, the figure is $180 million and the savings would be even larger if more students used vouchers.

But Milwaukee has one of the largest urban school-choice programs in the country. Roughly 1 in 5 of Milwaukee's school-age children receive vouchers; all of them must fall below an income threshold.

Further, researchers say that the program is beginning to show systemic effects. In other words, it doesn't merely help its participants. It also gives a lift to non-voucher students because the pressure of competition has forced public schools to improve, says the Review.

Source: Editorial, "Saving Milwaukee's Best," National Review, June 4, 2009.


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