School Choice is Changing Education In Milwaukee
February 20, 2002
As the U.S. Supreme Court mulls the challenge to school choice in Cleveland, Milwaukee is now offering more tax-supported educational choices than any other U.S. city. Utilizing charters and vouchers, the choices are not confined to parochial schools.
- Vouchers help nearly 11,000 students attend 106 schools in Milwaukee, while more than 2,200 students attend seven different charter schools sponsored by the city or the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
- Milwaukee is the only city where charter schools may be launched by public authorities other than local school districts.
- Of the 37 schools created in inner-city Milwaukee since the launch of its choice program, nearly two-thirds are private and nonsectarian -- educating more than one-third of the nearly 11,000 choice students.
Moreover, competition generated by the choice movement has brought many fundamental and salutary changes to the way public schools operate.
- Public school administrators negotiated with their teachers' union a new program to "counsel out" problem teachers.
- They gave individual schools more responsibility for hiring, school budgeting and curriculum -- and expanded specialty programs like Montessori schools that historically turned students away because of lack of space.
- Public school administrators approved a neighborhood school initiative to increase the number of schools that students can walk to; they converted halftime kindergarten to fulltime; they embarked on a major expansion of before- and after-school child care.
Harvard University economist Caroline M. Hoxby has concluded that public schools in Milwaukee "have a strong, positive response to competition from vouchers."
Source: John O. Norquist (Mayor of Milwaukee), "Vouchers Aren't Just for Religious Schools," Wall Street Journal, February 20, 2002.
Browse more articles on Education Issues