“After just a few years, voucher students perform as well or better than their non-voucher peers while using significantly less public funding,” 

Joanne Jacobs: Louisiana students who used vouchers to switch from public to private schools did worse in the first year, then improved, concludes a University of Arkansas study. After three years, voucher students were doing as well as similar students who hadn’t switched; low performers did significantly better in English. The Indiana study looked at … Continue reading “After just a few years, voucher students perform as well or better than their non-voucher peers while using significantly less public funding,” 

“After just a few years, voucher students perform as well or better than their non-voucher peers while using significantly less public funding,” 

Joanne Jacobs: Louisiana students who used vouchers to switch from public to private schools did worse in the first year, then improved, concludes a University of Arkansas study. After three years, voucher students were doing as well as similar students who hadn’t switched; low performers did significantly better in English. The Indiana study looked at … Continue reading “After just a few years, voucher students perform as well or better than their non-voucher peers while using significantly less public funding,” 

Commentary On Madison’s Ongoing Tax And Spending Growth; $494,652,025 Budget Spends Nearly $20k Per Student (Voucher schools operate on 60% less….)

Amber Walker: On Monday night, in a 7-0 decision, the Madison School Board approved the district’s $494,652,025 preliminary all-funds budget for the 2017-2018 school year. The Madison Metropolitan School District highlighted it’s balanced operating budget — representing $390,045,697 of the total funds — will result in a $15 per hour minimum wage for the district’s … Continue reading Commentary On Madison’s Ongoing Tax And Spending Growth; $494,652,025 Budget Spends Nearly $20k Per Student (Voucher schools operate on 60% less….)

Pro Choice: Vouchers, per student spending and achievement

The Economist: This is not the end of the story for vouchers, however. In both Milwaukee and Washington, voucher schemes get similar results to the public schools but with much less money. Under the DC scheme, each voucher is worth $8,500 a year, compared with $17,500 to educate a child in the public school system. … Continue reading Pro Choice: Vouchers, per student spending and achievement

Wisconsin DPI: 73 percent of statewide voucher students already enrolled in private schools

Molly Beck:

The statewide voucher program, in its first year, is at capacity, with about 500 students receiving vouchers statewide, according to the department. Of those, 79 percent did not attend a Wisconsin public school last year.
The program’s enrollment limit will rise to 1,000 next year. The statewide program exists in districts outside of Milwaukee and Racine, which have had programs for years.
Seventy-three percent of students now attending private schools using a voucher were already enrolled in a private school last year, according to the department. Twenty-one percent of students were from public schools. About 3 percent did not attend any school and 2 percent were home schooled.
Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he would probably support adding a preference given to applicants from public schools given those numbers.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker: Future voucher expansion should be based on student performance

Matthew DeFour:

“If the students are performing at or better than they were in the schools they came from, then that would be a compelling case to offer more choices like that to more families across the state,” Walker said. “If the majority are not performing better, you could make a pretty compelling argument not to.”
Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said work on an accountability bill is wrapping up and he hopes it will begin circulating for sponsors by the end of this month. He hopes hearings will be held in late summer and early fall with a bill sent to the governor by the end of the year.
“I hope that everyone comes away happy that this is the right thing to do,” Olsen said. “The voucher people want a bill like this because they’re only as good as their weakest school.”
Olsen said the bill will not only apply the report card system to schools participating in the voucher program, it will also make changes to the report card for public schools.
The report card released last fall didn’t measure high school student growth, because it was based on one test taken in 10th grade. The state budget the governor signed Sunday expands high school testing to grades nine and 11. The accountability bill will ensure future report cards include those tests, Olsen said.
Democrats have been skeptical that Republicans will follow through on holding private voucher schools accountable. Earlier this year Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, compared talk of a bill to Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown.
In February, Walker told the State Journal editorial board that he hoped to sign a voucher school accountability bill before the budget was approved. That didn’t happen, but Walker said there was push back from the Legislature.

Much more on vouchers, here.

Test scores improve for Milwaukee voucher schools (spending about 45% less per student), but still lag public schools;

Carrie Antlfinger:

Students who received vouchers to attend private or religious schools in Milwaukee improved their performance in mathematics and reading last year but still lagged behind public school students, according to a report released Tuesday.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction found that in the second year of testing last fall, about 40 percent of Milwaukee voucher students showed they were proficient or advanced in math, up nearly 6 percent from last year. Nearly 49 percent of local public school students and 78 percent of public school students statewide reached that mark.

Related: Comparing Milwaukee Public and Voucher Schools’ Per Student Spending: Though not perfect, I think $13,063 (MPS) and $7,126 (MPCP) are reasonably comparative per-pupil public support numbers for MPS and the MPCP.

Comparing Milwaukee Public and Voucher Schools’ Per Student Spending

Mike Ford

I find discussions of the per-pupil funding level of different types of Milwaukee schools usually turns into a debate on how to make a true apples-to-apples comparison of per-pupil support for the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). While basic differences in MPS and MPCP schools and their cost-drivers make any comparison imperfect, the following is what you might call a green apples to red apples comparison.
DISCLAIMER: if you not interested in school funding, prepare to be bored.
Per-pupil support for MPS
Note I am not trying to calculate per-pupil education funding or suggest that this is the amount of money that actually reaches a school or classroom; it is a simple global picture of how much public revenue exists per-pupil in MPS. Below are the relevant numbers for 2012, from MPS documents:
…….
Though not perfect, I think $13,063 (MPS) and $7,126 (MPCP) are reasonably comparative per-pupil public support numbers for MPS and the MPCP.

Test scores same at Milwaukee public, voucher schools, auditors say; Vouchers Spend 50% Less Per Student

Dinesh Ramde:

State auditors on Wednesday confirmed a report that found little difference in test scores between students in Milwaukee’s school voucher program and those in the city’s public schools.
Wisconsin lawmakers had asked the state Legislative Audit Bureau to evaluate a study, conducted by privately funded education researchers, that analyzed test scores from both groups of students. The study had found no significant difference, a conclusion that state auditors also reached.
The researchers studied the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, a voucher program that allows low-income children in Milwaukee to attend private schools at taxpayers’ expense. The two-year budget signed by Gov. Scott Walker in June repealed the enrollment limit for voucher schools in Milwaukee and expanded vouchers to schools in suburban Milwaukee and Racine.

View the 950K PDF report, here.
Milwaukee Voucher School WKCE Headlines: “Students in Milwaukee voucher program didn’t perform better in state tests”, “Test results show choice schools perform worse than public schools”, “Choice schools not outperforming MPS”; Spend 50% Less Per Student.

Milwaukee Voucher School WKCE Headlines: “Students in Milwaukee voucher program didn’t perform better in state tests”, “Test results show choice schools perform worse than public schools”, “Choice schools not outperforming MPS”; Spend 50% Less Per Student

Erin Richards and Amy Hetzner

Latest tests show voucher scores about same or worse in math and reading.
Students in Milwaukee’s school choice program performed worse than or about the same as students in Milwaukee Public Schools in math and reading on the latest statewide test, according to results released Tuesday that provided the first apples-to-apples achievement comparison between public and individual voucher schools.
The scores released by the state Department of Public Instruction cast a shadow on the overall quality of the 21-year-old Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which was intended to improve results for poor city children in failing public schools by allowing them to attend higher-performing private schools with publicly funded vouchers. The scores also raise concerns about Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to roll back the mandate that voucher schools participate in the current state test.
Voucher-school advocates counter that legislation that required administration of the state test should have been applied only once the new version of the test that’s in the works was rolled out. They also say that the latest test scores are an incomplete measure of voucher-school performance because they don’t show the progress those schools are making with a difficult population of students over time.
Statewide, results from the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam show that scores didn’t vary much from last year. The percentage of students who scored proficient or better was higher in reading, science and social studies but lower in mathematics and language arts from the year before.

Susan Troller:

Great. Now Milwaukee has TWO failing taxpayer-financed school systems when it comes to educating low income kids (and that’s 89 per cent of the total population of Milwaukee Public Schools).
Statewide test results released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction include for the first time performance data from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which involves about 110 schools serving around 10,000 students. There’s a total population of around 80,000 students in Milwaukee’s school district.
The numbers for the voucher schools don’t look good. But the numbers for the conventional public schools in Milwaukee are very poor, as well.
In a bit of good news, around the rest of the state student test scores in every demographic group have improved over the last six years, and the achievment gap is narrowing.
But the picture in Milwaukee remains bleak.

Matthew DeFour:

The test results show the percentage of students participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program who scored proficient or advanced was 34.4 percent for math and 55.2 percent for reading.
Among Milwaukee Public Schools students, it was 47.8 percent in math and 59 percent in reading. Among Milwaukee Public Schools students coming from families making 185 percent of the federal poverty level — a slightly better comparison because voucher students come from families making no more than 175 percent — it was 43.9 percent in math and 55.3 percent in reading.
Statewide, the figures were 77.2 percent in math and 83 percent in reading. Among all low-income students in the state, it was 63.2 percent in math and 71.7 percent in reading.
Democrats said the results are evidence that the voucher program is not working. Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, D-Middleton, the top Democrat on the Assembly Education Committee, said voucher students, parents and taxpayers are being “bamboozled.”
“The fact that we’ve spent well over $1 billion on a failed experiment leads me to believe we have no business spending $22 million to expand it with these kinds of results,” Pope-Roberts said. “It’s irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars and a disservice to Milwaukee students.”
Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who is developing a proposal to expand the voucher program to other cities, took a more optimistic view of the results.
“Obviously opponents see the glass half-empty,” Vos said. “I see the glass half-full. Children in the school choice program do the same as the children in public school but at half the cost.”

Only DeFour’s article noted that voucher schools spend roughly half the amount per student compared to traditional public schools. Per student spending was discussed extensively during last evening’s planning grant approval (The vote was 6-1 with Marj Passman voting No while Maya Cole, James Howard, Ed Hughes, Lucy Mathiak, Beth Moss and Arlene Silveira voted yes) for the Urban League’s proposed Charter IB School: The Madison Preparatory Academy.
The Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts Examination (WKCE) has long been criticized for its lack of rigor. Wisconsin DPI WKCE data.
Yin and Yang: Jay Bullock and Christian D’Andrea.
Related: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.

Washington, DC: $28,000 per student, gives Voucher Students $7,500

John Stossel:

On my show last night — which re-runs at 10pm tonight on FBN — I said that Washington DC gives voucher schools $7,500 per student, but DC’s public schools cost twice that much: $15,000.
The $15,000 number has been cited by congressmen and newspapers like the WSJ and the Denver Post. It comes from the the National Center for Education Statistics, and the Census.
Unfortunately, it’s also wrong. Or at least very misleading, since it ignores major sources of spending. As CATO Education scholar Andrew Coulson explains:

DC also has a “state” level bureaucracy that spends nearly $200 million annually on k-12 programs, and the city spends another $275 million or so on school construction, school facilities modernization, and other so-called “capital” projects.

But those aren’t included in the regular spending figures.

Related: Education: Too Important for a Government Monopoly. Joanne has more as does Mark Perry.
Locally, the Madison School District has 24,295 students and a 2009/2010 budget of $418,415,780. $17,222 per student. The DC budget morass illustrates the necessity of K-12 budget clarity in all cases, including Madison.

Commentary on Betsy DeVos Visit to a Milwaukee Voucher School

Do kids who attend private schools w publicly funded tuition vouchers do better than public schools? Research is mixed. Here’s a comprehensive look at the highs and lows in Milwaukee, which I wrote right as ⁦@BetsyDeVosED⁩ was rising to office. https://t.co/esSBjs5T7C — Erin Richards (@emrichards) September 16, 2019 .@betsydevosed was involved early in Wisconsin’s voucher … Continue reading Commentary on Betsy DeVos Visit to a Milwaukee Voucher School

No, voucher schools haven’t raised property taxes by $1B since 2011

Eric Litke: Voucher schools are an ongoing point of contention in Wisconsin’s divided government, with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers even promising to tighten or end the decades-old program. The system, which uses taxpayer money to send low-income students to private schools, has been tweaked and debated but ultimately expanded under Republican control in recent years. … Continue reading No, voucher schools haven’t raised property taxes by $1B since 2011

Every student graduating from this Milwaukee school will be the first in their family to attend college

Marisa Peryer: Established in 2015, the school is part of a nationwide network of 35 Cristo Rey Jesuit schools that predominantly reach students from low-income families. Students spend four days a week at the school, then one day a week at businesses across greater Milwaukee as part of the work-study program. The students are not … Continue reading Every student graduating from this Milwaukee school will be the first in their family to attend college

New Study: Charter, Choice Outperform Public Schools in Growth, Test Scores

Will Flanders: Here are 5 findings for our upcoming report on school performance: 1. Milwaukee: Choice Schools Lead in Student Proficiency (even more significantly than DPI data suggests) Wisconsin’s private and charter schools, much maligned by Governor Evers and other leaders on the left, continue to succeed for Wisconsin students. Once schools are put on … Continue reading New Study: Charter, Choice Outperform Public Schools in Growth, Test Scores

“that $119 million voucher cost represents just 1 percent of Wisconsin’s $11.5 billion in total local, state, and federal public-school funding”

Vicki Alger and Martin Lueken: Secondly, Pope’s latest perennial request to the LFB asks for only the program’s costs and doesn’t ask for a single voucher program savings calculation. That omission, however, didn’t stop dozens of media outlets from repeating the ominous headline that vouchers, along with charter schools, “consume $193 million in state aid.” … Continue reading “that $119 million voucher cost represents just 1 percent of Wisconsin’s $11.5 billion in total local, state, and federal public-school funding”

2004-2019 Wisconsin K-12 Spending: Property Tax & Redistributed Taxpayer funds

Tap for a larger version. Raw data [Excel Numbers] via Sara Hynek. Note that taxpayer supported K-12 school districts receive funds from a variety of sources, including federal taxpayer funds along with local fees. Madison plans to spend $518,955,288 during the 2018-2019 school year. That’s about $20,000 per student (26,917, which includes 4k), which is … Continue reading 2004-2019 Wisconsin K-12 Spending: Property Tax & Redistributed Taxpayer funds

Wisconsin Governor Evers seeks to freeze voucher school enrollment and suspend charter school expansion

Molly Beck: He said in the Milwaukee program especially, enrollment freezes in private voucher schools would disproportionately affect children of color living in low-income households. “Most of our families don’t have the kind of income where they would have realistic choices,” he said at the time. Under Evers’ proposal, voucher schools also would be banned … Continue reading Wisconsin Governor Evers seeks to freeze voucher school enrollment and suspend charter school expansion

Voucher Regulation Reduces Quality of Private School Options

Corey A. DeAngelis: If only it were that easy. My just-released study — co-authored with George Mason University graduate student Blake Hoarty — suggests that higher-quality private schools are less likely to participate in two of the most highly regulated voucher programs in the country, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and the Ohio Educational Choice … Continue reading Voucher Regulation Reduces Quality of Private School Options

Voucher Regulation Reduces Quality of Private School Options

Corey A. DeAngelis: If only it were that easy. My just-released study — co-authored with George Mason University graduate student Blake Hoarty — suggests that higher-quality private schools are less likely to participate in two of the most highly regulated voucher programs in the country, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and the Ohio Educational Choice … Continue reading Voucher Regulation Reduces Quality of Private School Options

Support for Universal School Vouchers Skyrockets

Corey DeAngelis: EducationNext just released its 12th annual survey of public opinion. The nationally representative survey, administered in May 2018, finds that 54 percent of the general public supports private school vouchers for all students. This result is up 9 percentage points (20 percent) from 2017. On the other hand, only 43 percent of the … Continue reading Support for Universal School Vouchers Skyrockets

More Private School Choice Means More Student Safety

Corey A. DeAngelis: These positive effects are all large. For example, the most recent federal evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program found that vouchers increased the likelihood that parents and students reported that the students were in very safe schools by more than 35 percent. Data from the state-mandated evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental … Continue reading More Private School Choice Means More Student Safety

WILL Messaging Experiment & Public Opinion Poll on K-12 Tax & Spending

WILL: on K-12 Education Reform In almost every context, words matter. Public opinion on particular issues can shift greatly depending on the language used, and K-12 education reform is no exception. To help further understand this, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty commissioned Research Now Survey Sampling International to conduct a statewide survey experiment … Continue reading WILL Messaging Experiment & Public Opinion Poll on K-12 Tax & Spending

How the course of Wisconsin school choice and vouchers changed on June 10, 1998

Alan Borsuk: It’s a much different world for pretty much every school and school district in Wisconsin, both public and private. A few aspects of that, in thumbnail form: Without vouchers, a lot of current private schools would have closed or would never have opened. Competition for enrollment in Milwaukee and Racine — and increasingly … Continue reading How the course of Wisconsin school choice and vouchers changed on June 10, 1998

10 Topics for the Next Milwaukee School Superintendent

Alan Borsuk: Teachers and the teachers’ union. Don’t expect a happy workforce. The union has turned up the volume on its unhappiness and it remains a powerful force, even without the bargaining powers it had before Act 10, which dramatically curtailed collective bargaining for most public employees, including teachers. Beyond the union itself, it won’t … Continue reading 10 Topics for the Next Milwaukee School Superintendent

A New “Report” Misleads on School Vouchers

Patrick Wolf Here are the Newspeak translations: • “Large body” means “five studies,” selected out of 20 rigorous experimental and quasi-experimental evaluations that exist on private school choice in the U.S. The authors claim the commentary relies on six studies but one of the supposed studies is a commentary by Mark Dynarski and Austin Nichols … Continue reading A New “Report” Misleads on School Vouchers

When School-Voucher Foes Called in the Feds … and Called the Shots

James Varney: It was a prolonged mystery that struck Wisconsin education reformers as more akin to a Kafka novel than American due process: Who was behind cryptic demand letters sent under the aegis of the Obama Justice Department, intimating without specific evidence that Milwaukee’s school-choice program was illegally discriminating against disabled kids? Now, after a … Continue reading When School-Voucher Foes Called in the Feds … and Called the Shots

Vouchers and taxpayer supported school districts

Erin Richards: In 2015-’16, Wisconsin was home to just over a million school-aged children. About 860,000 attended public schools. About 123,000 attended private schools: about 90,000 who paid tuition, and about 33,000 who used vouchers. About 20,000 children were home-schooled. Vouchers are taxpayer-funded tuition subsidies that help children attend private schools, the vast majority of … Continue reading Vouchers and taxpayer supported school districts

School choice opponents’ arguments against voucher schools ring hollow

Will Flanders:: While creating an incentive to improve, school choice has not come at a cost to the public schools. If, as Taylor claims, school choice is designed to “siphon” money from public schools, it’s making a mess of the job. Per-pupil spending is higher today than it was before the start of the voucher … Continue reading School choice opponents’ arguments against voucher schools ring hollow

St. Augustine’s results, not its facilities, will determine voucher school’s impact

Alan Borsuk: Every school on the south side is in fear of what Augustine Prep will mean, a leader of a different school told me recently. Some are at least expressing good wishes. Some are not, especially privately. The biggest thing to watch over the next several years will be enrollment at a lot of … Continue reading St. Augustine’s results, not its facilities, will determine voucher school’s impact

Lighthouse Christian School moving to bigger digs after voucher-fueled enrollment growth

Karen Rivedal: Lighthouse Christian School, which has operated since 2004 out of Lighthouse Church at 5202 Regent St., will gets its own building at 6400 Schroeder Road, with space for up to 260 elementary students. The $3.6 million, two-phase project will increase classrooms from eight to 19 and will add a cafeteria, a library with … Continue reading Lighthouse Christian School moving to bigger digs after voucher-fueled enrollment growth

School Vouchers For Broad Swath of Families On The Table In Illinois School Funding Fight

Linda Lutton: Under the draft proposal reviewed by WBEZ, individual taxpayers could choose to send up to $1 million annually to scholarship organizations rather than to the state Department of Revenue. Those diverted taxpayer dollars would fund scholarships to pay tuition cost at private or parochial schools, or to pay the cost for a public … Continue reading School Vouchers For Broad Swath of Families On The Table In Illinois School Funding Fight

Push to give school vouchers to middle-income families hits wall

Molly Beck:: “The governor supports the K-12 education budget he introduced to the Legislature five months ago,” spokesman Tom Evenson said when asked if Walker would support the proposal. “It provides a $649 million increase in funding for our schools, bringing funding for K-12 to an all-time high. After visiting nearly 50 public schools this … Continue reading Push to give school vouchers to middle-income families hits wall

Two experts debate whether public funds should be used to support private school vouchers

Michael J. Petrilli, Richard D. Kahlenberg, and Kyle Spencer: Rick doesn’t believe that kids should be forced to attend the school their district assigns to them, usually the one closest to their house, or that private schools should be illegal. I don’t believe that tax dollars should flow to schools without any accountability for results. … Continue reading Two experts debate whether public funds should be used to support private school vouchers

Voucher critics are seizing on D.C. test scores. They’re missing the point.

Washington Post: CRITICS OF school choice could not contain their glee over a new study on the District’s school voucher program showing that students attending private schools did not perform as well on standardized tests as their public school counterparts. It is pretty rich that those who have railed against using test scores to hold … Continue reading Voucher critics are seizing on D.C. test scores. They’re missing the point.

School Choice Deniers Critics hype a pair of studies while ignoring other evidence on education vouchers.

Wall Street Journal: President Trump has made a cause of public and private school choice, and liberals who oppose evaluating teachers based on student achievement are now hyping a few studies that have found vouchers hurt student performance. A closer look still supports the case for giving parents choice. More than 400,000 students in 30 … Continue reading School Choice Deniers Critics hype a pair of studies while ignoring other evidence on education vouchers.

Oaks Academy: Vouchers May Not Be a Panacea But They Are Really Working For Some Families

Barato Britt: True advocates of choice through vouchers shouldn’t suggest vouchers to be the panacea, the proverbial be all end all for education in our nation, no matter how much our President or Education Secretary maintain this assertion. Vouchers, like all educational options, are one means through which we provide students and families the ability … Continue reading Oaks Academy: Vouchers May Not Be a Panacea But They Are Really Working For Some Families

Louisiana school voucher program earns a D for 2016

Danielle Dreilinger: Measured like a school district, the Louisiana Scholarship Program earned 61.4 on a 150-point scale, Dunn said. That would be a D on the state public school report card, and worse than any public school system except for those in St. Helena Parish, Morehouse Parish and Bogalusa. No voucher program earned an A. … Continue reading Louisiana school voucher program earns a D for 2016

Notes on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Election

Annysa Johnson: Evers, 65, said his large margin Tuesday reflected Wisconsin voters’ commitment to public education. But he could face a tough fight ahead, he said, if Holtz attracts funding from school reform proponents across the country. “They both vowed to go after national voucher money, and I assume that will be Mr. Holtz’s M.O.,” … Continue reading Notes on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Election

Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Race Update

Molly Beck: “I think our track record is pretty good,” Evers said, citing decreased suspensions and expulsions, increased number of students taking college-level courses while still in high school and modest increases in reading proficiency. “Is it where we want? Absolutely not,” he said. Reading a key issuefor Humphries The state’s reading proficiency levels have … Continue reading Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Race Update

Vouchers kept Milwaukee Catholic parishes open, but at a cost to religious activity

Erin Richards: Hungerman said he can’t fully explain the reasons behind the numbers. Maybe, he surmised, parishes that begin to accept vouchers experience leadership change and new priorities. Maybe vouchers caused parishioners to change churches. Maybe parishioners, knowing that their parish has a public funding stream, are less likely to donate, or perhaps they don’t … Continue reading Vouchers kept Milwaukee Catholic parishes open, but at a cost to religious activity

Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Tony Evers Responds to Madison Teachers’ Questions

Tony Evers (PDF): 1. Why are you running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction? I’ve been an educator all my adult life. I grew up in small town Plymouth, WI. Worked at a canning factory in high school, put myself through college, and married my kindergarten sweetheart, Kathy-also a teacher. I taught and became a … Continue reading Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Tony Evers Responds to Madison Teachers’ Questions

Milwaukee’s Voucher Verdict What 26 years of vouchers can teach the private-school choice movement—if only it would listen

Erin Richards: Together, Travis Academy and Holy Redeemer have received close to $100 million in taxpayer funding over the years. The sum is less than what taxpayers would have paid for those pupils in public schools, because each tuition voucher costs less than the total expense per pupil in Milwaukee Public Schools. But vouchers weren’t … Continue reading Milwaukee’s Voucher Verdict What 26 years of vouchers can teach the private-school choice movement—if only it would listen

Wisconsin School Report Cards and Vouchers, In the News

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email: DPI-crafted school report cards are the primary means we have of discovering and comparing outcomes in Wisconsin schools. Schools in all sectors that receive public funding – traditional public, charter, and parental choice private schools – now all use the same annual Forward exam for students and will … Continue reading Wisconsin School Report Cards and Vouchers, In the News

Pence accomplished what Trump wants for national education: Vouchers and charters

Emma Brown and Perry Stein: The push toward school choice is deeply unpopular with advocates for traditional public schools, including teachers unions. “The general population of the United States of America needs to be watchful, and needs to be making sure there’s accountability there for where this money goes,” said Teresa Meredith, president of the … Continue reading Pence accomplished what Trump wants for national education: Vouchers and charters

Dodgeville school administrator seeks to unseat Wisconsin superintendent

Molly Beck: He said school districts can save money because of reduced health insurance costs for staff and can be creative in retaining teachers, like providing bonuses. Humphries said in an interview that Evers was too focused on objecting to the expansion of private voucher and independent charter schools and not focused enough on raising … Continue reading Dodgeville school administrator seeks to unseat Wisconsin superintendent

Less than half of Wisconsin public school students proficient or advanced in math and language arts

Doug Erickson: On the latest round of statewide tests, fewer than half of Wisconsin public school students in grades three through eight scored proficient or better in English language arts or math. The results, released Tuesday by the state Department of Public Instruction, showed 42.5 percent of students scored in those top two categories in … Continue reading Less than half of Wisconsin public school students proficient or advanced in math and language arts

Diversity: Louisiana may have solution for wait-listed voucher students

Danielle Dreilinger: Louisiana Education Superintendent John White has a radical solution to get 362 voucher students off waitlists: Enroll now, the state will pay later. These students have all been granted taxpayer-funded vouchers to attend private school. But the budget ran short by about $2 million, generating anguish and attention for families that had already … Continue reading Diversity: Louisiana may have solution for wait-listed voucher students

Military-style voucher school seeks to buy vacant Milwaukee Schools’ building

Annysa Johnson: A proposal by a military-style voucher school to purchase a vacant Milwaukee Public Schools building is scheduled to go before the city next week. Right Step Inc., which is being sued by a group of parents for allegedly abusive practices, is proposing to open a boys-only campus for up to 150 students in … Continue reading Military-style voucher school seeks to buy vacant Milwaukee Schools’ building

Plans for St. Augustine voucher school clear final city hurdle (Milwaukee)

Annysa Johnson: Plans to build what is expected to be the second-largest private school in the Milwaukee Parental Choice voucher program passed its final hurdle at City Hall and could begin construction as early as April. Milwaukee’s Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously approved a special use permit earlier this month for St. Augustine Preparatory School, … Continue reading Plans for St. Augustine voucher school clear final city hurdle (Milwaukee)

Vouchers, charters outscore public schools in latest data

Annysa Johnson: Third- through eighth-grade students in Milwaukee’s private voucher and independent charter schools outperformed their public school counterparts in math and language arts, according to statewide assessment data released Wednesday by the Department of Public Instruction. But Racine public school students overall outscored their voucher school counterparts. And on the ACT, voucher schools outscored … Continue reading Vouchers, charters outscore public schools in latest data

Vouchers: Time for Thinking, Not Rhetoric

Paul Hill: A new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research is one of the relatively few recent studies reporting a negative voucher effect—students using vouchers in Louisiana learned a good deal less than similar students in regular public schools. The reason: students with vouchers had few good choices, since the available schools were … Continue reading Vouchers: Time for Thinking, Not Rhetoric

Commentary On Wisconsin’s Most Recent K-12 Assessment Exam (8.5% of Madison students did not take the test, 13% with disabilities)

Molly Beck: More than 700 students in the Madison School District opted out in 2015, part of the 8,104 public school students who opted out statewide, a substantial increase from the 87 and 583 students, respectively, who opted out last year, state and school district data show. The surge nationwide in recent years represents a … Continue reading Commentary On Wisconsin’s Most Recent K-12 Assessment Exam (8.5% of Madison students did not take the test, 13% with disabilities)

The School Choice Voucher: A ‘Get Out of Jail’ Card?

Corey DeAngelis, Patrick J. Wolf: report we examine crime rates for young adults who experienced Milwaukee’s citywide voucher program as high school students and a comparable group of their peers who had been public school students. Using unique data collected as part of a longitudinal evaluation of the program, we consider criminal activity by youth … Continue reading The School Choice Voucher: A ‘Get Out of Jail’ Card?

Public schools oppose loss of funding for students they don’t educate

Chris Rickert: It’s as if taxpayers face paying for a voucher student twice — once through state taxes for vouchers, and again through district property tax levies for, well, I’m not sure what, given that the voucher students are no longer in the districts. Dan Rossmiller, government relations director at the Wisconsin Association of School … Continue reading Public schools oppose loss of funding for students they don’t educate

Wisconsin’s K-12 Math And Reading Performance: NAEP 37% at or Above Proficient

Annysa Johnson: They do not include individual district- and school-level data for public schools or the scores for private schools participating in the state-funded voucher programs. Among the highlights: The composite score for juniors who took the ACT was 20 on a scale of 36. That’s below the 22.2 reported in August 2015. Again, DPI … Continue reading Wisconsin’s K-12 Math And Reading Performance: NAEP 37% at or Above Proficient

MPS approves ‘no excuses’ charter school with vow to draw students back

Vivian Wang: Laying down a new marker in the competition for school enrollment in Milwaukee, the School Board has approved a high-profile young educator’s proposal for a new charter school, after he promised to ramp up efforts to reverse the flow of students leaving the district for voucher schools and other options. Maurice Thomas’ planned … Continue reading MPS approves ‘no excuses’ charter school with vow to draw students back

Proposed South Side Milwaukee Voucher High School

Matt Kullig: Ramirez has not said whether his proposed St. Augustine Preparatory Academy would participate in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, but opponents have predicted the school would elect to educate students using taxpayer-funded vouchers and compete directly with the public schools for state education dollars. Ramirez said the goal of the school is to … Continue reading Proposed South Side Milwaukee Voucher High School

Commentary On School Voucher Effectiveness & Economics

Chris Rickert: But there’s still little doubt vouchers mean taxpayers are going to be on the hook for educating some indeterminate number of additional kids than they would be in the absence of vouchers. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, according to Jim Bender, president of the pro-voucher School Choice Wisconsin. He notes that government … Continue reading Commentary On School Voucher Effectiveness & Economics

Comments On proposed Voucher Funding changes… ($37M in a 4.5B Budget)

Molly Beck Overall, roughly $4.5 billion annually is devoted to general school funding in the proposed state budget. The cost for new students in the program over the next two years is projected to be about $37 million. In the last state budget, about $384 million was appropriated for the state’s three voucher systems. Rep. … Continue reading Comments On proposed Voucher Funding changes… ($37M in a 4.5B Budget)

Madison loath to admit that vouchers have an ‘educational purpose’

Chris Rickert: From the way some of the more enthusiastic public school supporters talk, you’d think alternative forms of public education, such as voucher schools, were making millions on the backs of ill-treated kindergartners. The vast majority of Wisconsin’s voucher schools are not-for-profit, though, and it seems unlikely that any of them is, say, forcing … Continue reading Madison loath to admit that vouchers have an ‘educational purpose’

What choice schools don’t like about Scott Walker’s voucher plan

Alan Borsuk: An important thing to understand about Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal for making an unlimited number of private school tuition vouchers available across Wisconsin is how unattractive, as a practical matter, his plan is to the schools that it could serve. An upcoming gusher of private school vouchers? More likely, as it stands, it … Continue reading What choice schools don’t like about Scott Walker’s voucher plan

School choice group seeks personal data on students

Erin Richards: Bender said he thinks it’s unlikely that districts would be bristling at the request if it had come from any entity or individual other than his. School district leaders say that’s not true; they’re concerned about their families’ personal information going out to anyone. Historically it’s been a nonissue because nobody ever asks … Continue reading School choice group seeks personal data on students

Commentary on a Milwaukee voucher school; contemplating accountability & spending differences

Erin Richards: The operator of one of Milwaukee’s longest-running private voucher schools says her organization strives to give disadvantaged children the best shot they can get in life, even when they’ve been left behind by other schools. But new documents and former employees have raised concerns about the internal workings at Ceria M. Travis Academy, … Continue reading Commentary on a Milwaukee voucher school; contemplating accountability & spending differences

An update on Wisconsin Voucher Schools

Erin Richards: How many schools are involved? A total of 159 as of this fall: 113 in Milwaukee serving 26,930 students, 15 in Racine serving 1,740 students, and 31 statewide serving 1,013 students. Almost all of them are religious. The majority are Catholic, Lutheran and Christian schools. How much do the programs cost taxpayers? About … Continue reading An update on Wisconsin Voucher Schools

Study contends voucher programs save money, benefit public schools

Erin Richards: Milwaukee’s long-running school voucher program that allows certain children to attend private and religious schools at taxpayer expense has saved Wisconsin more than $238 million since its inception in 1990, according to a new study by a national voucher advocacy group. The study released Tuesday by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice said … Continue reading Study contends voucher programs save money, benefit public schools

Madison’s Lengthy K-12 Challenges Become Election Grist; Spends 22% more per student than Milwaukee

Madison 2005 (reflecting 1998): When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As … Continue reading Madison’s Lengthy K-12 Challenges Become Election Grist; Spends 22% more per student than Milwaukee

Local, National & Global School Voucher Perspectives

Matthew DeFour on Madison School Board Member and Gubernatorial Candidate Mary Burke: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke said Tuesday that if elected, she would eliminate the new statewide voucher program and private school tax deduction in the next budget. Burke, a Madison School Board member, previously said she didn’t support the statewide voucher program. In … Continue reading Local, National & Global School Voucher Perspectives

Voucher students post gain in math, reading; still lag public schools

Erin Richards & Kevin Crowe: Reading and math proficiency for students attending private, mostly religious schools in Milwaukee with the help of taxpayer-funded vouchers ticked up in 2013 from 2012, according to the latest state standardized test score results. On average, students in Milwaukee’s private-school voucher program still performed lower than students in the city’s … Continue reading Voucher students post gain in math, reading; still lag public schools

Public school advocates dismiss voucher popularity at their own risk

Chris Rickert: Usually, the popularity of something is an indication that people value it. Public school proponents and anti-voucher Democrats might want to keep that in mind, as their tendency to downplay support for vouchers can sound like an excuse for avoiding improvements to public schools that keep public school enrollments strong. …. Pope did … Continue reading Public school advocates dismiss voucher popularity at their own risk

Wisconsin Senate approves more oversight for new voucher schools

Erin Richards: During an active Senate session on Tuesday, lawmakers passed a bill that would make it harder for new private and religious schools to join Wisconsin’s taxpayer-funded school voucher programs.  To become law, a similar bill still has to pass the Assembly, which supporters expect could happen as soon as next week. The measure has … Continue reading Wisconsin Senate approves more oversight for new voucher schools

New short film exposes Milwaukee schools’ efforts to block high-performing competitors

Ben Velderman:

Hundreds of Milwaukee families have discovered in recent years that having a school voucher doesn’t mean much if your private school of choice doesn’t have the classroom space to accommodate additional children.
In Bad Faith screen grab topSuch is the case for the city’s St. Marcus Lutheran School. The high-performing private school has a long waiting list for any available seats that open up, and it’s not difficult to understand why. By virtually all measures, St. Marcus Lutheran is outperforming Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) – its government-run counterpart – by a wide margin. The most telling statistic is probably the schools’ graduation rates: St. Marcus succeeds in getting a diploma into the hands of 96 percent of its students, compared to MPS’ dismal 65 percent graduation rate.
If families who qualify for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program could flee their neighborhood government school, many of them obviously would. More than 25,000 students already have fled the district, which has caused MPS’ enrollment to crater. The attendance drop, in turn, has led to a surplus of school buildings the downsized district no longer needs.
But MPS leaders don’t want alternative schools using the empty buildings.
MPS officials believe that St. Marcus Lutheran and other high-quality voucher and charter schools pose an existential threat to the district, which is why they’ve devised a very clever plan to block the schools’ size and future growth by denying them access to the city’s vacant and unused school buildings

Major changes to school report card proposed, including closing poorly performing schools; Teachers union official calls bill ‘armageddon’

Erin Richards:

Starting in 2015’16, every school that receives taxpayer money would receive an A-F rating based on their performance in the following areas:
Achievement on state tests.
Achievement growth on state tests, based on a statistical analysis called value-added that estimates the impact schools and teachers have on student progress.
The progress in closing achievement gaps between white students and subgroups of students who are poor, of minority races or who have disabilities.
Graduation and attendance rate status and improvement.
The current school report card system went into effect two years ago and took the place of the widely disliked sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Gov. Scott Walker once pushed for using A through F grades, but a task force on school accountability had opted for a five-tiered system placing schools in categories from “significantly exceeds expectations” to “fails to meet expectations.”
The 2012-’13 report cards placed 58 schools statewide into the “fails” category. That included 49 in MPS — one is closed, so now there’s 48 — two independent charter schools authorized by the City of Milwaukee, four public schools in Racine and three public schools in Green Bay.

Matthew DeFour & Molly Beck:

Wisconsin’s lowest-performing public schools would be forced to close or reopen as charter schools and the state’s 2-year-old accountability report card would be revamped under a bill unveiled Monday.
The proposal also would require testing for taxpayer-subsidized students at private voucher schools while barring the lowest-performing schools from enrolling new voucher students. Participating private schools also could test all students for accountability purposes.
“We’re going to start holding anybody who gets public money accountable for getting results. That is the bottom line,” said Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, which plans to vote on the amended bill Thursday.
The bill makes several changes to the state’s K-12 school accountability system — including assigning schools letter grades — which itself recently replaced a decade-old system under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

New voucher plan for Wisconsin special-needs students revives dispute

Erin Richards

A proposal to allow special-needs students to attend private schools at taxpayer expense is being revived, the latest effort by Republicans in the Legislature to give parents more options outside traditional public schools.
The proposal is a revamped version of a measure that failed in Gov. Scott Walker’s 2013-’15 budget.
That measure would have allowed 5% of students with disabilities to attend schools outside their home districts with the help of a taxpayer-funded voucher. As part of a broader compromise, the portion on students with disabilities was dropped in favor of a limited expansion of private school vouchers statewide.
The revived Wisconsin Special Needs Scholarship bill is scheduled to be introduced Tuesday by State Sens. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) and Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), and Reps. John Jagler (R-Watertown) and Dean Knudson (R-Hudson).
The primary concern of those who oppose special-needs vouchers is that private schools are not obligated to follow federal disability laws. They point to examples in other states where — in their eyes — underqualified operators have declared themselves experts, opened schools and started tapping taxpayer money.

Vouchers must be monitored to ensure school integration, U.S. says

Danielle Dreilinger

The U.S. Justice Department says Louisiana’s private school voucher program must be monitored to make sure it doesn’t make public school segregation worse. To that end, it wants the state to submit extensive student and school demographics each year.
Moreover, federal lawyers say that after 25 years of working together, Louisiana has largely stopped cooperating with the federal government on efforts to ensure racial equality in schools. They made the case in a memo filed Friday with Judge Ivan Lemelle in federal District Court in New Orleans.
The lawyers wrote that “the United States’ requests for information in this case are not an attack on the voucher program.” However, the demand is likely to raise Gov. Bobby Jindal’s hackles once more in this high-profile court case that has drawn support from prominent national Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, both of whom visited New Orleans voucher schools this month.

Voucher enrollment more than doubles in Racine

Erin Richards:

In its first year operating free of a state-imposed enrollment cap, Racine’s private school voucher program saw enrollment more than double to 1,245 students, according to fall enrollment figures released by the state Department of Public Instruction.
Growth in the Milwaukee private-school voucher program continued its steady climb, increasing by about 3.6% from last year to 25,820 students, up from 24,941 last September.
Including the 512 students using a voucher to attend a private school in a new statewide program, the traditional third Friday of September head count reveals a total of 27,577 students using public dollars to attend 148 private, mostly religious schools in the state in the 2013-’14 school year.
Participating private school leaders and voucher-school champions celebrate the growth, saying they’re meeting a parent need and offering more children an opportunity to pursue a quality education.
“I think the community has responded very positively,” said Frank E. Trecroci, the founder and administrator of Mount Pleasant Renaissance School in Racine, which more than tripled its number of voucher students to 280 this fall, up from 89 voucher students in September 2012.
But many public-school advocates see the growth of voucher programs as a threat, and those concerns are now coming from a chorus of voices outside Milwaukee.
“I struggle with the wisdom of moving in this direction,” Patricia Deklotz, the superintendent of the Kettle Moraine School District in Waukesha County, said Thursday. “We’re building a dual system of funding here.”

Mary Burke shares views on voucher schools

Tom Kertscher:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke shared some of her views on school vouchers in a lengthy interview she did over the weekend with blogger Heather DuBois Bourenane, a prominent critic of Gov. Scott Walker.
Some of Burke’s remarks, based on a transcript:
Q. “What do you really think you can you do to move past this sort of toxic and divisive rhetoric without seeming like you’re not willing to take a stand on the issues that really matter the most to preserving Wisconsin values and to standing up for Wisconsin workers and students and educators?”
“I talk about jobs a lot because I do believe that there are a lot of people who are unemployed and really struggling to get by and we do have to emphasize what’s going to get jobs growing here in Wisconsin. But also I think that the direction that we’re headed in terms of education is really frightening to me. The statewide voucher expansion we’re talking about, I actively fought against and I think that I am very worried about what will happen in the next four years with regards to taking the caps off and funding them through a continued siphoning of funds that should be going to public education.”
Q.”If you don’t support a full repeal of the voucher system, how exactly do you plan to improve their performance and accountability without draining more taxpayer funds from the public school budget?”
“Sure. Well, first, in the interview I gave regarding the voucher, statewide voucher expansion, the emphasis I definitely placed is in not taking off the caps or letting the voucher expand. Then in terms of rolling back that statewide voucher expansion, you know, as governor I would have to work with the Legislature and certainly would do that, but it would be obviously only in conjunction with the Legislature that could happen.

On Voucher Schools & Students

Stephanie Simon:

Ever since the administration filed suit to freeze Louisiana’s school voucher program, high-ranking Republicans have pummeled President Barack Obama for trapping poor kids in failing public schools.
The entire House leadership sent a letter of protest. Majority Leader Eric Cantor blistered the president for denying poor kids “a way into a brighter future.” And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal accused him of “ripping low-income minority students out of good schools” that could “help them achieve their dreams.”
But behind the outrage is an inconvenient truth: Taxpayers across the U.S. will soon be spending $1 billion a year to help families pay private school tuition — and there’s little evidence that the investment yields academic gains.
In Milwaukee, just 13 percent of voucher students scored proficient in math and 11 percent made the bar in reading this spring. That’s worse on both counts than students in the city’s public schools. In Cleveland, voucher students in most grades performed worse than their peers in public schools in math, though they did better in reading.
In New Orleans, voucher students who struggle academically haven’t advanced to grade-level work any faster over the past two years than students in public schools, many of which are rated D or F, state data show.

Notes and links on Simon’s Politico article here. Fascinating.

The DOJ Attempt to Block School Vouchers in Louisiana Undermines Civil Rights

Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst :

The U.S. Department of Justice has entered into a lawsuit opposing Louisiana’s voucher system. The state’s program, passed into law in 2012, offers a voucher to attend a private school to students from families with incomes below 250% of the poverty line attending low performing public schools. Parents apply for the vouchers and to date about 90% of the recipients are black.
The DOJ is not intervening as you might naively expect because of concerns about the constitutionality of voucher programs, or because they believe that private schools in Louisiana discriminate, or because they think the state has designed its voucher program in a way that discriminates against minorities. No. Their argument is that the voucher program will have an impact on federal desegregation orders that require certain school districts to achieve a racial distribution in each of their schools that mirrors the racial composition of the district as a whole. So, if 40% of the school-aged population in these districts is black then each school has a target of 40% black enrollment.
Here is an example the DOJ provides of the harm caused by the voucher program they are intervening to halt:

Bill would place new standards and ratings on public and voucher schools

Jason Stein:

All schools funded by state taxpayers — including private voucher schools — would be held to new standards and Milwaukee’s public schools would still face state intervention, under long-expected legislation offered Wednesday by two key GOP lawmakers.
Work has been under way for two years on the measure, which would establish the first-ever rating for private voucher schools based on their student performance data. It comes a month and a half after lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker expanded Wisconsin’s voucher program for private schools statewide.
The measure would not change the status of Milwaukee Public Schools, which under the state’s current accountability system is the only district in Wisconsin so far to face corrective action.
The new standards were proposed Wednesday by the chairmen of the Senate and Assembly education committees, Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) and Rep. Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake).
“We want parents to have the best information possible while at the same time making sure all of their choices are quality options,” Kestell said in a statement.
The bill would cover all schools receiving tax dollars, from traditional public schools to public charter schools and voucher schools. Work on it began two years ago with a task force chaired by Walker and state schools Superintendent Tony Evers, an ally to Democrats, along with Olsen and Kestell.
But passage of the complex measure through the Republican-held Legislature is by no means guaranteed. Both Olsen and Kestell have sometimes taken more aggressive postures on overseeing vouchers than some other Republican colleagues, particularly those in the Assembly.

Getting beyond insults in the school choice debate; Responding to the Madison School Board President on Vouchers, Parents & School Climate

Rick Esenberg, via a kind reader’s email:

Whether or not he is right, we are left with, again, with the very philosophical divide that I identified. Mr. Hughes thinks that centralized and collective decision-making will more properly value diversity (as he defines it) and make better educational choices for children than their parents will.
Of course to describe a philosophical divide does not tell us who has the better of the argument. Mr. Hughes defends his position by relying on a 2007 “study” by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute which, strictly speaking, was not a study at all and had more to do with the impact of choice on public schools than its value to the families who participate in the program.
The 2007 WPRI publication collected no data on what was actually happening in Milwaukee. It simply took a national data base on the educational involvement of families and extrapolated it to Milwaukee based on the socioeconomic characteristics of Milwaukee families. It was, strictly speaking, nothing more than a calculation. If low income and minority families in Milwaukee behave like low income and minority families nationally, the calculation showed, then, based on certain assumptions, very few would engage in informed decision-making regarding their children’s education.
It was an interesting and thought provoking exercise but one with an obvious limitation. It is not at all clear that national findings would extend to a city with a relatively longstanding and actively promoted choice program. It is possible that the existence of a greater array of educational choices would change the incentives and capacity of parents to engage in the informed and engaged decision-making that would otherwise not happen.
Beyond that, the fact that only a subset of families will exercise a choice tells us precisely nothing about whether they ought to have the opportunity to make one – unless you entertain a presumption against individual choice and a diversity of alternatives in education.
Mr. Hughes argues that education is an “experience good” which is a fancy way of saying that it is something that consumers have a difficult time evaluating before deciding whether to buy it. But, again, the extent to which you think something is that type of good (many things are difficult to be sure about before you try them) and whether, having decided it is, you think that people should have someone else choose for them reflects very philosophical divide I’m concerned with.

We know best” has long been associated with parts of Madison’s K-12 community, despite long term, disastrous reading scores and spending twice the national average per student.
Background: “The notion that parents inherently know what school is best for their kids is an example of conservative magical thinking.”; “For whatever reason, parents as a group tend to undervalue the benefits of diversity in the public schools….”.
It would certainly be useful to spend a bit of time learning about Milwaukee’s experiences, positive and negative with a far more open k-12 climate. The results of Madison’s insular, non-diverse approach are an embarrassment to students, citizens, taxpayers and employers.


Tony Bennett, Former Indiana School Superintendent, Changed Top GOP Donor’s School’s Grade

Tom LoBianco:

INDIANAPOLIS — Former Indiana and current Florida schools chief Tony Bennett built his national star by promising to hold “failing” schools accountable. But when it appeared an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent Republican donor might receive a poor grade, Bennett’s education team frantically overhauled his signature “A-F” school grading system to improve the school’s marks.
Emails obtained by The Associated Press show Bennett and his staff scrambled last fall to ensure influential donor Christel DeHaan’s school received an “A,” despite poor test scores in algebra that initially earned it a “C.””They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work,” Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12 email to then-chief of staff Heather Neal, who is now Gov. Mike Pence’s chief lobbyist.
The emails, which also show Bennett discussed with staff the legality of changing just DeHaan’s grade, raise unsettling questions about the validity of a grading system that has broad implications. Indiana uses the A-F grades to determine which schools get taken over by the state and whether students seeking state-funded vouchers to attend private school need to first spend a year in public school. They also help determine how much state funding schools receive.

Madison and Wisconsin Math Data, 8th Grade

90 Schools (2 in Dane County) Apply to Join Wisconsin Voucher Program; Madison Schools Governance Dichotomy?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham wisely stated:

“Rather than do a lot of work on opposing the voucher movement, we are going to focus on making sure our schools are the best schools possible and the schools of choice in Madison,” Cheatham said.

Just a few days ago, the Madison School Board said this in the “strategic framework document”:

Public education is under sustained attack, both in our state and across the nation. Initiatives like voucher expansion are premised on the notion that public schools are not up to the challenge of effectively educating diverse groups of students in urban settings.
We are out to prove that wrong. With Superintendent Cheatham, we agree that here in Madison all the ingredients are in place. Now it is up to us to show that we can serve as a model of a thriving urban school district, one that seeks out strong community partnerships and values genuine collaboration with teachers and staff in service of student success.
Our Strategic Framework lays out a roadmap for our work. While some of the goals will seem familiar, what’s new is a clear and streamlined focus and a tangible and energizing sense of shared commitment to our common goals.

Madison must focus, laser like on academic achievement.

Voucher schools don’t always take special needs students

Rory Linnane: Kim Fitzer’s daughter, Trinity, was attending kindergarten at Northwest Catholic School in Milwaukee with a voucher from the state for the 2011-12 school year. But Trinity, then 6, had gastrointestinal problems and anxiety — conditions that Fitzer said the private school was ill-equipped to address. Fitzer said the school repeatedly called her to … Continue reading Voucher schools don’t always take special needs students

Parents cast their votes in voucher debate

Chris Rickert:

Jim Bender, of the pro-voucher group School Choice Wisconsin, said there are a range of legitimate reasons parents choose voucher-funded private schools, but that the rising number of voucher students proves parents want that choice.
That’s probably what you’d expect to hear from a leader in what voucher critics see as a national effort to privatize — and profit from — education.
Of course, what you hear from Democratic lawmakers and a DPI run by a Democratically leaning state superintendent — who rely for political support on teachers unions — is about what you’d expect to hear from those with a vested interest in public schools’ hegemony.
Vouchers might be one of those childhood-related policy debates that has less to do with what children need than with what lawmakers and their special interests want.
And if what children need is to be ignored, the next best thing might be to pay a little more attention to what parents say their children need.

Much more on vouchers, here.

New state budget continues to support some bad voucher schools

Alan Borsuk:

It’s been an excellent state budget season for lousy voucher schools.
Of course, it’s been an excellent budget season for all private schools that want public financial support — statewide expansion of vouchers, tax deductions for those who pay tuition to elementary and high schools, big jumps in state payments for each voucher student a year from now, some last-minute helpful surprises.
But the lousy operators must be feeling especially good. Why? Because nothing was done to drive them to improve or stop taking state money. Come this fall, a cluster of low performing, poorly run voucher schools will still enroll thousands of kids and take millions of dollars in state money.
Even the most adamant voucher supporters agree that there are schools in Milwaukee that don’t merit public support. There is a large range of quality among the 110+ schools that take voucher students. Some are excellent, many are of average quality. And some really stand out when it comes to being bad.
Somehow, a solution that promotes quality and responsible use of public money seems off the table in Wisconsin.
I regard myself as one of the few people on Earth who has no pro or con position on vouchers. A professional obligation — I’m neutral. But I’ve followed the program closely for 15 years and visited something around 100 voucher schools. I’m not neutral when it comes to quality.

Do we apply the same governance standards to all publicly funded schools?

Voucher Schools: Inherently Unequal

Wisconsin Senator Tim Cullen:

Last week, I expressed my extreme disappointment when the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee voted along party lines to create a statewide unaccountable school voucher program.
Make no mistake – this plan creates two separate school systems in Wisconsin, both paid for by taxpayers.
In 1954, late Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Earl Warren said, “Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” His words hold true today.
While the agreement creates a 500-student cap during the program’s first year and a 1,000-student cap in subsequent years, the cap could be lifted in the future or may be line-item vetoed by the governor. The ultimate goal of voucher supporters is not to open the voucher program to 500 or 1,000 students, but an unrestricted expansion of vouchers.
The private school voucher effort is a political movement, not an educational movement. It is a top-down movement funded by tens of millions of dollars in out-of-state campaign contributions and the hiring of several highly-paid lobbyists.

Why aren’t voucher schools subject to open records law?

Jack Craver:

Last week, Sarah Karon of the American Civil Liberties Union argued in a Cap Times column that voucher schools should be held to the same standard of public scrutiny to which public schools are currently subjected.
She noted that many private schools that participate in the Milwaukee School Choice Program receive the great majority of their money from taxpayer-financed vouchers.
Open records advocates, such as the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, agree. If voucher schools are receiving taxpayer dollars, then shouldn’t the fourth estate be allowed to shine a light on them?
“We feel that because there’s a significant amount of money from taxpayers and because there is intense public interest in the metrics (for evaluating schools), they should provide a comparable level of transparency that public schools provide,” says Bill Lueders, president of the WFIC.
Among Republicans, there appears to be a divide over just how much accountability taxpayers can demand from vouchers. Whereas the GOP leadership and Gov. Scott Walker are pushing measures that will subject vouchers to the Common Core academic standards and include voucher student test scores in the statewide Student Information System, conservative stalwart Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, one of the loudest advocates of voucher schools, believes those measures pervert the entire idea behind school choice.

Voucher schools should be more open

Sarah Karon:

Back in 1990, when Milwaukee launched the nation’s first publicly funded voucher program, participating schools could enroll no more than 49 percent voucher students. These schools were considered private, because the majority of their students paid private tuition.
Fast-forward to 2013.
Now, more than half of Milwaukee’s 110 voucher schools have at least 95 percent of students on publicly funded vouchers. In one-fifth of these schools, every student receives a voucher.
Yet because voucher schools are still classified as “private,” they can — and do — ignore Wisconsin’s open records and meetings laws. It’s a double standard that undermines transparency and shields information from parents and the public.

Commentary on Wisconsin K-12 Tax & Spending Increases, Voucher Changes

Jason Stein

Lawmakers also want to expand school voucher programs beyond the borders of Milwaukee and eastern Racine County. The programs allow parents who meet income thresholds to send their children to religious schools and other private schools at taxpayer expense.
Under the motion approved 12-4 along party lines by Republicans on the budget panel:

  • Public schools would receive $150 more per student in general aid this fall and another $150 increase the following year. The plan would cost $289 million over two years, with $231.5 million funded with state taxes and the rest with an additional $52 million in higher local property taxes and an increase in expected revenues from the state lottery.
    School districts would have the authority to spend this new money. Walker wanted to give schools $129 million in state aid but require all of it to go toward property tax relief, rather than be used for new expenses.
    Under the budget committee’s proposal, total property taxes would increase by less than 1% per year, with school levies going up somewhat more than that.

  • A new voucher program would become available to all students outside Milwaukee and Racine. It would be limited to 500 students the first year and 1,000 students every year thereafter. Walker wanted no limits on the number of students in the program after the second year.
    If there are more students seeking slots in the program than allowed, the proposal would allocate the available slots by lottery. The slots would go to the 25 schools with the most applications, with each school getting at least 10 seats.

  • The new program would be available to students in any school district. Walker wanted to make it available in districts with 4,000 or more students that were identified as struggling on school report cards issued by the state.
  • No more than 1% of the students of any given school district could participate in the new program.
  • Over 12 years, the negative financial impacts for the Milwaukee Public Schools from the voucher program here would be phased out.
  • The new program would be available to students of families making 185% of the federal poverty level or less — well below the income thresholds for Milwaukee and Racine. Those programs are available to families making up to 300% of the federal poverty level, with a higher threshold for married couples.
  • Voucher schools in all parts of the state would receive $7,210 per K-8 student and $7,856 per high school student — up from $6,442 currently. Walker wanted to provide $7,050 for students in kindergarten through eighth grade and the same larger increase to high school students.



Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Tony Evers (PDF):

Today, Republican leaders are finalizing a deal to likely expand Wisconsin’s private school voucher program statewide. While this dramatic proposal has significant implications for citizens and taxpayers across Wisconsin, it has been developed behind closed doors with no public input, no public hearings, and no public fiscal analysis. If this proposal becomes law, taxpayers across Wisconsin will be financing a new entitlement for private school children whose tuition is currently paid for by their parents. To address the lack of information about the potential fiscal effects of this program, the attached table estimates potential long-term costs of statewide subsidization of private school tuition on a district-by-district basis. Cost to subsidize current private school students only: up to $560 million annually
While some lawmakers claim the purpose of the program is to provide educational choices to those who cannot afford it, the current school choice programs in Milwaukee and Racine provide vouchers to families who are already choosing to send their children to private schools. As many as 50% of the children participating in the Racine choice program were already in private schools when they began receiving a state-funded subsidy in
2011-12. If the voucher program is expanded statewide, it can be assumed that current private school families would also be eligible for this new entitlement.

Related:

Vouchers: First He Came for the Teachers; then He Came for the Kids; School Calendar 2013-14; Ready, Set, Goal Conferences; Parent-Teacher Conferences

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter (PDF), via a kind Jeannie Bettner email:

As he described it in February, 2011, Governor Scott Walker “dropped a bomb” on Wisconsin’s public employees, attempting to strip them of their rights to collectively bargain. Now he’s aiming at our kids. Walker’s 2013 biennial budget goes a long way in his plan to crush public education in Wisconsin; a move to privatize via VOUCHERS (i.e. providing funding from the area public school to enable parents to pay tuition to send their children to private or religious schools).
In its press conference on May 17, the Forward Institute released their study of the impact of school funding on educational opportunity. The study found that schools with higher poverty levels have experienced greater loss in funding when compared to more affluent schools across the state. The number of students in Wisconsin living in poverty has doubled since 2007, and since 2007 state funding of public education has fallen to its lowest level in 17 years. Walker’s biennial budget proposes to further exacerbate the situation by expanding voucher schools into nine additional areas, including Madison.
Expanding voucher schools will take away funding from our public schools. Not only are school districts required to pay 38.4% of the cost of each voucher; they lose the ability to count the student attending private/parochial schools in the state aid formula on which the amount of revenue is based. In Madison, a person would receive $6,442 from the MMSD to send their child to a private or parochial school. Yet Madison would receive no additional state aid to offset that cost, so payments come directly from money that would have supported education in Madison public schools. It is projected that in the first five years of vouchers, Madison schools could lose nearly $27 million to vouchers.

….

MTI has received several concerns regarding the calendar, as recently released by the District, for the 2013-14 school year. Among the demands by the District, enabled by Governor Walker’s Act 10, in last year’s negotiations, was that one of the Voluntary Days, August 28, be converted to a mandatory attendance “development day”. It is specifically designated as “development”, not “staff development”. The latter is designated for August 29. Since the 1970’s the Contract provided returning teachers three Voluntary Days, days for which they are paid, but did not have to be at their assigned work site. The new Contract, effective July 1, 2013, reduces that to two days. “All Staff Day” is August 30.
Secondly, an agreement provides that the District has full
discretion as to whether to enable Ready, Set, Goal Conferences. The agreement provides teachers compensation or flex time for engaging parents in such conferences. Because of the proposed cut in State aid under Governor Walker’s Budget, MMSD may not authorize RSG Conferences this fall. They ask that teachers prepare letters inviting parents for such conferences, should funding enable them.
Third, is the issue of Parent-Teacher conferences. The Contract provides that there will be two evenings for conferences and that the day following conferences will also be for conferences with no students present to enable conferences which were not held on the prior evening. The District has failed to list November 13 as being with no students, while they scheduled evening conferences on November 12. The District has proposed to MTI changing the day following each conference to be with students, and having the only “no student” day be November 27, the day before Thanksgiving.

Vouchers are not an existential threat to our local public school structure. Long-term disastrous reading scores are, and merit everyone’s full attention.

Are School Vouchers Worth It?

Express Milwaukee:

Are taxpayers really getting their bang for their buck when it comes to funding school vouchers?
The short answer from the Forward Institute is no.
The new, progressive public policy research organization released its comprehensive report today on Wisconsin’s education funding and poverty and it’s well worth a close read.
A portion of the report examines taxpayer funding for voucher schools and their performance.
Now, this isn’t easy to do since schools that accept vouchers don’t have to provide the kind of data that fully public schools provide, even though the state has enhanced some of the voucher schools’ accountability measures.
That said, the Forward Institute chose to look at state aid per pupil and the percentage of students that test proficient or advanced on state tests. (You’ll find all of this on page 46 of the report.)
Let’s just acknowledge here that both public schools and voucher schools take in money from other sources. Both types of schools typically spend more per pupil than what they receive from state taxpayers.

Much more on vouchers, here.

Local Political Commentary on Vouchers

Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, represents District 48 in the Assembly:

By now, most people have heard about Scott Walker’s proposal to expand the voucher school system to new districts, including Madison, yet many people aren’t clear as to what this means for our students as well as the administrators, teachers and parents. I’ve been asked by numerous constituents to give an explanation of how this would apply, in real terms, to our public education system.
The best way to break this down is in three parts: the fiscal effect on taxpayers and our public schools; a comparison between public school and private school accountability; and a comparison of the performance of students in voucher schools and public schools.
FINANCES: Madison currently has 4,202 private school students. Based on a conservative assessment of income levels, 1,387 of these students would be eligible for the voucher program. So what does this mean for Madison taxpayers?
If 1,387 private school students become voucher students, Madison taxpayers would subsidize private schools for about $3.8 million and see a reduction in state aid of that amount. The Madison district’s taxpayers would have to pay more to replace the $3.8 million, or the district would have to make $3.8 million worth of cuts in services for public school students. One thing that has been made abundantly clear to me by my constituents and other community members is Wisconsinites don’t like the idea of their taxpayer dollars going toward private education.

State Senator Fred Risser, Representative Jon Erpenbach, Representative Mark Miller:

As legislators, we hear about many important issues that will impact our state’s future. No issue we face has an impact as far reaching as the education of Wisconsin children. Providing future generations with the skills to be productive and successful must be a top priority.
Unfortunately, in the proposed state budget, corporate special interests won out over Wisconsin children.
In the proposed budget, the governor has chosen to increase voucher program funding by $94 million. The proposal also expands the voucher program to school districts with two or more “failing schools.”
Based on this language, the Madison School District would as failing, and therefore open to voucher expansion. As a result, Madison tax dollars would be invested in private, unaccountable schools, rather than its public schools.
We believe that just isn’t right. Every time a student leaves the public school and enters the voucher program, the state withholds $2,200 in funding from the public school. While it may mean one fewer student to educate, the school’s fixed costs remain the same, and the district is forced to raise property taxes to cover the difference.

Much more on vouchers, here. Madison’s long-term, disastrous reading scores.

Voucher Commentary from Madison’s new School Board President

2013-2014 Madison School Board President Ed Hughes:

The proponents of the proposed expansion of Wisconsin’s private-school voucher program have run out of substantive arguments. Governor Walker’s “This is about children” illustrates how vacuous their efforts at persuasion have become.
When Governor Walker’s budget was first announced, his initial talking points in support of his voucher expansion plan featured the claim that schools in the nine targeted school districts were failing and vouchers were necessary to provide a lifeline to students who needed help to pursue other schooling options. Neither the governor nor his supporters are pushing that argument any more. It seems that they got the point that it is not a smart move politically for the governor to go around trashing the public schools in some of the larger urban areas of the state.
While proponents have claimed that students in voucher schools do better academically, the wind has gone out of the sails of that argument as well. DPI has reported that students in voucher schools in Milwaukee and Racine performed worse on the WKCE than students in the public schools in those communities. Voucher school advocates can point to data that supposedly support their view, opponents can counter with contrary figures, and at best the evidence on improved student performance is a wash. There is no reason to think that students in the nine districts targeted for voucher expansion would do any better in the private schools in their area than they would in their neighborhood public schools. No one has offered an argument to the contrary.
Voucher proponents sometimes try to construct a cost-savings argument around the fact that the per-pupil amounts that voucher students would receive are less than the average per-pupil expenditures by their school districts. But this argument goes nowhere because no one is proposing that the public schools shut down as voucher schools expand. Consequently, there’s really not much of a response to the observation credited to former Governor Tommy Thompson that “We can’t afford two systems of education.”
Additionally, voucher schools have not discovered a magic bullet that allows them to educate students across the spectrum of needs more economically. Here’s a telling excerpt from an op ed by the Choice Schools Association advocating for much higher voucher payments and posted on line by the right-wing MacIver Institute:

Vouchers are hardly an existential threat to the Madison School District. Rather, the District’s long term disastrous reading scores are the essential issue, one that merits endless attention and improvement.
2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before.

Voucher advocates, opponents fight to win over public, key Senators

Matthew DeFour:

At a recent rally in a Latino community center in Waukesha, Gov. Scott Walker urged a group of mostly private school parents, students and administrators to advocate for his proposal to expand vouchers beyond Milwaukee and Racine.
“I need your help,” Walker told a crowd of about 350 people, the majority of them children, on April 25. “We need you to help us spread that message to other lawmakers in our state Capitol, because they need to understand this is not a political statement; this is not a political campaign. … This is about children.”
A week earlier at First United Methodist Church in Downtown Madison, representatives from the Department of Public Instruction and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards laid out the arguments against voucher expansion to a group organized by Grandparents United for Madison Public Schools.
“This is a Waterloo moment for public education,” WASB lobbyist Joe Quick told about 60 people.
“You’ve got good schools here,” concurred DPI financial adviser Jeff Pertl. “We’ve got to fight to protect them.”
In recent months, in gymnasiums, libraries, churches and offices across Wisconsin, both sides in the voucher debate have ramped up their efforts to sway public opinion, especially in the districts of a handful of key Republican senators.