NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 11, 2010

President Obama's fiscal 2011 budget calls for a 9 percent increase in federal education spending, and he has famously said that the money should go to "what works" in education.  So he ought to take another look at Milwaukee, where the nation's oldest and largest publicly funded school voucher program is showing academic gains, says the Wall Street Journal. 

A report released last week by School Choice Wisconsin, an advocacy group, finds that between 2003 and 2008, students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program had a significantly higher graduation rate than students in Milwaukee Public Schools: 

  • In 2008, the graduation rate for voucher students was 77 percent, versus 65 percent for the non-voucher students.
  • This is despite the fact that non-voucher students receives $14,000 per pupil in taxpayer support, or more than double the $6,400 per pupil that voucher students receive in public funding.
  • The Milwaukee voucher program serves more than 21,000 children in 111 private schools, so nearly 20 percent more graduates mean a lot fewer kids destined for failure without the credential of a high school diploma.  

The finding is all the more significant because students who receive vouchers must, by law, come from low-income families, while their counterparts in public schools come from a broader range of economic backgrounds, says the Journal. 

Vouchers are of course taboo among most Democrats, and President Obama has done nothing to stop Congress from killing the small but successful voucher program for poor families in Washington, D.C.  The Milwaukee program has survived for 20 years despite ferocious political opposition, and it would have died long ago if parents didn't believe their children were better off for it, says the Journal. 

Source: Editorial, "Milwaukee's Voucher Graduates," Wall Street Journal, February 8, 2010. 

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