CITY SCHOOLS THAT WORK
March 10, 2006
The near north side of Milwaukee can be a bleak place, now that it has lost the department stores, factories and other businesses that used to thrive there. But if you want to see inner-city children getting a good education, it's the most beautiful spot in America, says John Tierney of the New York Times.
The city's experiment in school vouchers began 15 years ago amidst opposition from the city's two major newspapers, the liberal Journal, and conservative Sentinel. Now the combined and mostly left-leaning Journal Sentinel has backed efforts to expand the program, which has led to the creation of dozens of new private schools in Milwaukee.
According to observers, the voucher program has benefited the education system by:
- Offering smaller classes and more involved teachers, resulting in increased individual attention and acting as an oasis from the streets
- Reducing costs from around $10,000 per student at public schools to less than $6,400 for each voucher student, without losses in quality education
There has also been an impact on public education, says Tierney:
- Increased competition has forced public schools to focus more on student achievement, resulting in improved test scores at the schools most threatened by the voucher program.
- More involvement on the parts of parents and teachers to decide who should teach, instead of forcing schools to accept incompetent teachers just because they had seniority.
While critics complain that there still isn't definitive evidence that voucher students are doing better overall in their new schools, says Tierney, the results so far in Milwaukee and other cities are more than enough to declare vouchers a success.
Source: John Tierney, "City Schools That Work," New York Times, March 7, 2006
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