Recently, Step Up for Public Schools (SUPS) released a pamphlet titled “The Truth about Vouchers and Privately Run Charters.” Unfortunately, a better title for their flier would have been “Half-Truths.” SUPS raises several tired talking points about school choice in Wisconsin that have been repeatedly debated, disproven, and regurgitated over more than two decades of voucher discussion.
Today, we’ll break down their “Fast Facts” on how the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and the Parental Private School Choice Program (Racine) have affected education in the Badger State. While there are also some interesting statements about non-instrumentality charter schools (the same schools that regularly outscore both regular public schools and instrumentality charter schools in Milwaukee, we’ll save that for another day. Let’s look at what the SUPS has to say about Wisconsin’s voucher programs.
1. Students in the taxpayer-funded private school voucher program do not perform better than their peers in neighborhood public schools.
A: In more than 20 years of operation, there has only been one apples to apples comparison of student growth between similarly matched students from MPS and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). That study – the School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP) – showed very few statistically significant differences between the two groups of pupils. What they did find was that voucher students were 4-7 percent more likely to graduate, attend a four-year college, and stay in that college than their peers. While factors like parental involvement may have played a role, the study strongly suggests that these schools were a significant force behind the improved attainment of the students that chose vouchers.
One thing is clear – there’s no evidence that these voucher schools are hurting students, despite having only 50 percent or less of the funding that their traditional public school peers have had in Milwaukee. As the state’s data collection and standards improve and we learn more about student growth and the impact that individual teachers have, we’ll develop a better understanding of where MPS and MPCP schools stand in terms to serving students on a year-to-year basis.