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 […]

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 […]

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, […]

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.

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.

Why are almost all Wisconsin voucher schools religious?

Jack Craver:

Jim Bender, executive director of School Choice Wisconsin, the pro-voucher lobby, says the choice program is a reflection of the private school market, which in Wisconsin is predominantly religious.
“If you look at the history of education in Wisconsin, that’s a cornerstone of operating schools in the private market,” he says, pointing out that many parochial schools are typically cheaper than non-religious private schools because they are subsidized by their affiliated churches. “In the past, not long ago, many religious schools were free.”
Bender says he believes the development of a statewide voucher program will “change the economics” and allow for more secular private schools to flourish, since they can now receive taxpayer funds.
And yet, as I mentioned above, that hasn’t been the case in Milwaukee.
Alan Borsuk, who helped found two Jewish schools in Milwaukee and covered the city’s choice program as a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, says the money provided in the voucher program still isn’t enough to convince many secular schools to participate.

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 […]

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.

PolitiFact sorts only some of the “truth” on voucher schools, leaves out key objections to program’s expansion

Jay Bullock:

Back when I used to blog about politics, I was a constant critic of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s PolitiFact operation. Or, as I called it, Politi”Fact,” with the emphasis on the sarcasm quotes.
Why? Because PolitiFact Wisconsin, as the local franchise is known, tries to set itself up as a neutral arbiter, and so it usually plays the “both sides do it” card. It can’t be too critical of one side, even if that one side plays far more fast and loose with the facts than the other side does. (Also: there are only two sides, so the truth must lie in the middle!)
This kind of faux-neutrality is the hallmark not of fact-checkers but of a distant, entitled media, hoping to maintain an “above it all” reputation and the good graces of the folks who generously douse the state’s largest media operation with significant political ad buys every couple of years.
In Monday’s paper, the PolitiFact crew examines some claims made about school vouchers by groups both favoring the program’s expansion (including Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker) and opposing it, claiming it is “sorting out the truth” about voucher schools. It should be no surprise that I oppose expansion, though I am not personally involved in the anti-voucher groups cited in this story.

Empty Milwaukee School Buildings to voucher schools: No sale

M. D. Kittle:

In January 2011, just as one of the most tumultuous sessions of the Wisconsin Legislature was getting underway, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett wrote an urgent letter to state Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills.
Barrett begged the lawmaker to push forward legislation that would transfer control of vacant and underutilized Milwaukee Public Schools real estate to the city of Milwaukee.
The mayor described the sad state of affairs in some Milwaukee neighborhoods, where “once thriving parts of their communities now sit barren and quiet.”
What the city needed, Barrett wrote, was a law that would allow the city to “take a more holistic approach to the management of these assets by addressing the needs and concerns of neighborhoods where buildings stand vacant as well as better meeting the educational needs of our community.”

Madison School Board Candidates Discuss Redistributed State Tax Dollars & Voucher Schools

Isthmus

Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
In the race for Seat 4, incumbent James Howard is running against Greg Packnett, a Democratic legislative aide.
In this competitive series of elections, there are numerous candidate forums and listening sessions under way, and we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates.
For this fourth and final week of questions, we ask candidates to evaluate Gov. Scott Walker’s proposals for the Wisconsin’s 2013-15 budget, and consider how it would impact schools in the state. Along similar lines, we ask candidates to share their thoughts on the proposal to expand voucher schools in Wisconsin.

Wayne Strong and Dean Loumos (Isthmus) TJ Mertz (Isthmus).

Three voucher schools get state money after losing accreditation

Erin Richards:

Three private schools in Milwaukee continued to receive taxpayer money through the voucher program after losing their accreditation, under a loophole in state law that requires such schools to obtain that official approval but not maintain it.
Reports and records from the state Department of Public Instruction show that Dr. Brenda Noach Choice School, Texas Bufkin Christian Academy and Washington DuBois Christian Leadership Academy have accreditation that has either lapsed or been rescinded.
But on Wednesday, the head of the agency that rescinded its approval of Brenda Noach and Washington DuBois said that both of those schools have now been reinstated.
Still, the questions raised by the DPI accreditation reports illuminate an oversight hiccup for the voucher programs in Milwaukee and Racine. The accreditation issue has been a topic of discussion in Madison lately, and legislation is in the works to close the loophole and add other quality-control measures to the voucher program, which Gov. Scott Walker has proposed expanding to other cities.
School Choice Wisconsin, the state’s largest advocate for voucher schools, supports the effort. The group has also been advising accreditation agencies to more closely evaluate the quality of private schools they approve, according to Jay Nelson, head of the Association of Christian Teachers and Schools.

A related question: how many traditional public schools are in this position?

What will happen if voucher schools come to Madison?

Jessica Vanegeren:

Two years ago when Gov. Scott Walker introduced a budget packed full of controversial changes that drastically affected public education statewide — including record funding cuts and the crippling of teachers unions — another change simultaneously hit the Racine public schools.
“The budget passed in July (2011) and the voucher program started in August,” says Marc Duff, the Racine Unified School District’s budget director and a former Republican state representative until 2002. “It all happened so quickly and at the same time we were dealing with all the other changes to collective bargaining and Act 10.”
Now, for the second budget in a row, Walker is talking vouchers. It’s a program first started in Milwaukee two decades ago that requires the state and school district to share in the cost of educating a student at a private rather than a public school. In the 2011-13 budget, Walker extended the voucher program to Racine.
Walker says they improve student educational performance and provide an alternative for parents whose children are in struggling public schools.

More here and here.

Legislators and parents vow to oppose Wisconsin voucher school expansion

Jessica Vanegeren:

The weekend news that Gov. Scott Walker hopes to drastically expand the state’s school voucher program has been met with a swift response, not only from public school advocates but members of both political parties.
How far his proposal gets as part of the next two-year state budget remains to be seen. He plans to unveil the 2013-15 spending package in its entirety on Wednesday.
Republicans enjoy an 18-15 majority in the Senate. But at least two — Sen. Mike Ellis of Neenah and Sen. Luther Olsen of Ripon — have spoken out recently against a state-imposed expansion of voucher schools. Ellis has said, among other things, that local school district residents should be able to vote on bringing in voucher schools.
“The governor can propose anything he wants in his budget,” Olsen says. “But I’m thinking we (the Legislature) want to do something else.”

Wisconsin Governor: Scott Walker proposes expanding voucher school program, raising taxpayer support

Jason Stein and Patrick Marley:

Gov. Scott Walker is proposing increasing by at least 9% the taxpayer funding provided to private and religious voucher schools – an increase many times larger in percentage terms than the increase in state tax money he’s seeking for public schools.
The increase in funding for existing voucher schools in Milwaukee and Racine, the first since 2009, comes as the Republican governor seeks to expand the program to nine new districts, including Waukesha, West Allis-West Milwaukee and Madison. Walker is also proposing allowing special-needs students from around the state to attend private schools at taxpayer expense.
Even after the proposed increase to voucher funding and the substantial cuts Walker and lawmakers approved for public schools in 2011, the aid provided to voucher schools would still be substantially less on a per-pupil basis than the overall state and local taxes provided to public schools.
But to provide that bigger increase to voucher schools, the Republican governor will need to persuade lawmakers to break a link in state law that currently binds the percentage increase in aid to voucher schools to the percentage increase in state general aid given to public schools.

Related links:

Finally, perhaps everyone might focus on the big goals: world class schools.

Scores show voucher schools need accountability

Alan Borsuk:

Ceria M. Travis Academy is a private school that had 486 kindergarten through 12th-grade students as of September in two buildings, one on the west side, one on the north side. Its partner school, Travis Technology High School on the far northwest side, had 214 students.
Atlas Preparatory Academy, also a private school, had 979 kindergarten through 12th-grade students in three locations on the south side.
Few students in either set of schools did well on Wisconsin’s standardized tests in 2011. More than five out of six at both Travis schools either were rated “minimal” in reading and math, the lowest category, or, in unusually large numbers, didn’t take the tests at all. Almost all the required students at Atlas took the tests, but more than 70% were minimal in reading and more than 60% minimal in math.
How many were rated proficient or better? At the Travis schools, it was under 2% in reading, just over 2% in math. At Atlas, it was 4.2% in reading, 5.5% in math.
…..
MPS schools have elaborate accountability systems and tons of information is available about each school. The accountability systems haven’t been so effective historically, but there are signs of improvement as more low-performing schools are closed. That said, there are still plenty of MPS schools that get results that are not much different from those of Travis and Atlas (and at much higher cost per student).
Milwaukee charter schools also are required to report quite a bit of information publicly and, in many cases, the charter authorizer (at MPS, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee or City Hall) has been pretty effective in holding schools to performance standards, closing quite a few. That said, there are still low-performing c

Swedish Study: Voucher Schools Improve Everyone’s Achievement

Anders Böhlmark Mikael Lindahl

What will free schools mean for the quality of education — in the new schools, and in the old ones they compete with? In Sweden, they don’t have to guess. They have almost 400 free schools, and data from millions of pupils. The latest study has just been published, and has strong results that I thought might interest CoffeeHousers (you can read the whole paper here). It makes the case for Michael Gove to put the bellows under the free school movement by following Sweden and let them be run like expanding companies (that is to say, make a profit). It finds that:

  1. Growth of free schools has led to better high school grades & university participation, even accounting for other factors such as grade inflation.
  2. Crucially, state school pupils seem to benefit about as much as independent school ones. When ‘bog standard comprehensive’ face new tougher competition, they shape up. They know they’ll lose pupils if they don’t. As the researchers put it: ‘these positive effects are primarily due to spill-over or competition effects and not that independent-school students gain significantly more than public school students.’
  3. Free schools have produced better results on the same budget. Their success cannot be put down to cash. Or, as they say, ‘We are also able to show that a higher share of independent-school students in the municipality has not generated increased school expenditures.’
  4. That the ‘free school effect’ is at its clearest now because we now have a decade’s worth of development and expansion.

Via Competition in Schools by Chris Cook.

Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, has written up a paper on Swedish school reforms, which you can download here. I thought it was worth using to quickly flag up two important statistical public policy points.
The context to this is that Sweden has, since the early 1990s, allowed private (including for-profit) institutions to enter the school system – and parallels are often drawn between it and the ongoing reforms of England’s school system. This paper, as Fraser rightly says, comes to the view that increasing the volume of private schools in an area is associated with improved results. Mikael Lindahl and Anders Böhlmark say:

If we transform our estimates to standard deviation (S.D.) units (using the variation across all individuals) we find that a 10 percentage point increase in the share of independent-school students has resulted in 0.07 S.D. higher average educational achievement at the end of compulsory school.

This is a statistically significant finding. That is to say that it is not likely to be the result of random happenstance. But it is important to look beyond the significance to effect size – so it’s not luck, but is it a big effect? That is where the Swedish paper makes me suck my teeth. It suggests that if you were to introduce a ten percentage point increase in private provision, you would only get a 0.07 standard deviation increase. I cannot help thinking that’s a pretty meagre return on such a massive disruption in the system.


Read the paper here (500K PDF).

Local voucher school’s teachers go months without pay

Lindsay Fiori:

A local voucher school has not paid teachers in months and has lost nearly two-thirds of its students, staff said Wednesday.
St. John Fisher Academy, a private high school that opened in Racine last fall using state voucher money, has reportedly not paid staff members since March and has seen student enrollment dwindle from about 50 children to only 26, according to teachers who filed complaints this month with the state Department of Workforce Development.
Teachers have continued to show up for work each day despite going without pay from mid-December to February and from March to now, they said.

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.

Commentary & Rhetoric on the Most Recent Milwaukee School Choice Report: Voucher schools made higher gains in reading

Longitudinal study will not end the debate over education in Milwaukee. More work is still needed to improve education for disadvantaged kids.
A multiyear study tracking students in both Milwaukee’s private voucher schools and Milwaukee Public Schools found that the voucher schools were exceeding the public schools in several key areas. The report’s findings may be significant, especially on reading, but there are still questions, and the bottom line is that improvement and strong accountability are still required for all schools in Milwaukee.
The final installment of an examination of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program shows that voucher schools made significantly higher gains in reading in 2010-’11 than those of a matched sample of peers in MPS. And there also were indications that kids in the choice schools finish high school and go on to college at higher rates than do those in MPS.
The results of the five-year study by Patrick J. Wolf, the study’s lead author and a professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, have been challenged (see op-eds on the cover of Crossroads and “Another View” below), so the waters certainly are far from crystal clear.

Study’s results are flawed and inconsequential by Alex Molnar and Kevin Welner:

To the evaluators of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, vouchers are like a vaccine. Once students are “exposed” to the voucher program – even if they subsequently leave – that “exposure” somehow accounts for any good things that happen later on.
And leave they did – a whopping 75% of them.
Here are the details: The evaluators began by following 801 ninth-grade voucher recipients. By 12th grade, only about 200 of these students were still using vouchers to attend private school. Three of every four students had left the program.
Given this attrition, the researchers had to estimate graduation rates (as well as college attendance rates and persistence in college) by comparing Milwaukee Public Schools students to students who had been “exposed” to the voucher program – even though most of those students appear to have actually graduated from an MPS school.

Milwaukee’s voucher schools: an assessment by Patrick J. Wolf and John F. Witte

In 2006, the State of Wisconsin passed a law mandating that the School Choice Demonstration Project evaluate the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the nation’s first private school choice program. The law required that we track a representative sample of choice students for five years and compare their results with similar students in Milwaukee Public Schools.
We did so using an innovative and reliable student matching system in 2006 to create a panel of 2,727 voucher students in grades three through nine and a comparison panel of 2,727 MPS students in similar grades, neighborhoods and with similar initial test scores.
We carefully tracked both groups of students and measured student outcomes from 2007 to 2011. The key outcomes were “attainment,” graduating from high school and enrolling and persisting in college; and “achievement,” measured by growth estimates on state of Wisconsin standardized tests. On Monday, in Milwaukee, we released the final reports from that evaluation.
Our most important finding was that choice students outperformed public school students in educational attainment. We call our attainment results the most important in our study because attainment is a crucial educational outcome. Students who graduate from high school live longer, earn more money during their lifetime and are less likely ever to be divorced, unemployed or incarcerated than students who do not graduate.

Milwaukee’s voucher schools: an assessment – Just a fig leaf for abandoning public schools by Bob Peterson

Good intentions are important, but they don’t ensure reliable information.
The latest privately funded report on academic achievement in the voucher schools, despite good intentions, is ultimately both unreliable and irrelevant.
The report, the final in a five-year longitudinal study, is unreliable for several reasons. First, while it touts findings such as increased high school graduation rates, it buries the fact that most ninth-graders left the voucher schools by their senior year.
Second, the figures on special education numbers are inflated and do not hold up to scrutiny. The only solid data at this point is based on the special-ed participation rate in the state’s standardized tests.
Last year, when for the first time the private voucher schools were required to give the state test, only 1.6% of voucher students were identified as students with special needs. The report can make whatever claims it wants, but that doesn’t mean its claims are legally or educationally legitimate.

Milwaukee’s voucher schools: an assessment – Focus on high-performing schools by Jim Bender

Students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program are more likely to graduate from high school, get into college and stay in college than students in Milwaukee Public Schools. This is just one of the findings from the nation’s leading scholarly experts on school choice, the School Choice Demonstration Project, in the release of its final reports last week on programs in Milwaukee.
The project used rigorous methods to compare students in the choice program with MPS students.
The comparisons show that the choice program as a whole has higher graduation rates and superior growth in reading scores than MPS. While this is good news for choice students, we need to expand those gains across all sectors of the Milwaukee education market.
One step in that direction is being prepared by a coalition of traditional public, charter and private schools to create a common accountability report card for Milwaukee schools. The effort is led by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and others. School Choice Wisconsin and the Choice Schools Association have both been involved in its creation, and it will cover all sectors – traditional public, charter and choice.
The complexities of equitably comparing a wide variety of schools are challenging. Once finalized, the comparative information on schools in the report card will empower parents and community leaders to make better education decisions.

Significantly lower per student spending (voucher vs. traditional public schools) is a material factor in these discussions.

Voucher schools must be scrutinized, too

Appleton Post-Crescent:

We’ve pushed all along for school accountability.
That means accountability for all schools, not just public ones. Private schools that receive taxpayers’ dollars through a voucher program must be held to the same standard as public schools.
That’s why proposed education legislation regarding a statewide school accountability system is flawed. It must include private voucher schools before it is implemented.
Voucher schools were originally part of the new accountability system agreed to by lawmakers, the governor’s office and the Department of Public Instruction. Then, when push came to shove, Republican lawmakers pulled voucher schools out of the mix.

Quality doesn’t follow rise in voucher schools

Alan Borsuk:

Keith Nelson says it has been a godsend for Wisconsin Academy to take part in Milwaukee’s school voucher program. Thirteen voucher students are enrolled this fall, which stands to bring the school more than $83,000 in public money this school year.
The 13 students are less than a thousandth of the 23,198 city of Milwaukee residents whose education in private schools – the vast majority of them religious – is being supported by tax dollars this fall.
But the Wisconsin Academy involvement is eye-catching: The coed boarding high school with about 100 students is in Columbus, northeast of Madison and more than 70 miles from Milwaukee.
And the school’s involvement illustrates the core essence of the voucher program. Whether you find it wonderful, enraging or simply really interesting, it is (best as I’ve ever figured out) a fact that nowhere in America, present or past, has so much public money been spent on sending children to religious schools. Both the Wisconsin and United States supreme courts have found this constitutional.

Bipartisan bill would block automatic voucher school expansion in Wisconsin

Susan Troller:

Ten Wisconsin senators, from both parties, have joined forces to propose legislation that would require any further expansion of voucher schools to receive a full public debate.
The state’s voucher program provides taxpayer funds for families to send their children to private schools. It has served low-income students in Milwaukee for about 20 years, but was expanded by Gov. Scott Walker in the state budget passed in June without public debate or other legislative action.
Also included was language allowing automatic expansion of the voucher program in the future to any school district in Wisconsin that meets certain financial and demographic criteria.
That mechanism isn’t sitting well with some senators, including Senate President Mike Ellis, R-Neenah. He introduced SB 174, which ensures that any further expansion of the voucher program would include full public debate and legislative action.
“Sen. Ellis is not an enthusiastic advocate nor is he an opponent of voucher programs. But he’s long argued that policy issues should not be added into the budget process and this legislation addresses concerns about automatic expansion without proper debate,” says Michael Boerger, an aide to Ellis.

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.

Voucher schools to expand amid questions about their performance

Susan Troller:

If Gov. Scott Walker’s budget is passed with recommendations approved Thursday by the Joint Committee on Finance, there will be more students in more voucher schools in more Wisconsin communities.
But critics of school voucher programs are hoping legislators will look long and hard at actual student achievement benefits before they vote to use tax dollars to send students to private schools. They also suggest that studies that have touted benefits of voucher programs should be viewed with a careful eye, and that claims that graduation rates for voucher schools exceed 90 percent are not just overly optimistic, but misleading.
“The policy decisions we are making today should not be guided by false statistics being propagated by people with a financial interest in the continuation and expansion of vouchers nationwide,” wrote state Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, D-Middleton, in a news release Friday.
Pope-Roberts is particularly critical of statistics that school choice lobbyists and pro-voucher legislators are using that claim that 94 percent of school voucher students graduated from high school in four years.
It’s good news, she says, but it tells a very selective story about a relatively small subset of students who were studied. That graduation rate reflects only the graduation rate for students who actually remained in the voucher program for all four years: Just 318 of the 801 students who began the program stayed with it.

Related:

Per student spending differences between voucher and traditional public schools is material, particularly during tight economic times.

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”.

Yin & Yang on Voucher Schools

Margaret Farrow:

School choice opponent Barbara Miner says that Wisconsin legislators should “just say no” to Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to expand educational options for Milwaukee parents (Crossroads, March 13).
My advice to legislators?
Just say yes.
Those who do will have Milwaukee residents, especially Milwaukee parents, on their side.
In a recent poll, Milwaukeeans rate the 20-year-old Milwaukee Parental Choice Program successful by a two-to-one margin (60%-28%). The results cut across racial and economic lines and extend even to households without school-age children.
Parents are especially enthusiastic. Two-thirds say the program is successful, and 64% endorse expansion.
There is good reason for their support. Students in Milwaukee’s school choice program graduate from high school at rates 18% higher than Milwaukee Public Schools students, according to estimates by University of Minnesota professor John Robert Warren.

Barbara Miner:

Memo to all Wisconsin legislators. There is an easy way to prove you care about public education in Wisconsin. And it won’t cost a penny.
Just say no to Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed expansion of the Milwaukee voucher program providing tax dollars to private schools.
This may seem merely like a Milwaukee issue. It’s not. Voucher advocates have made clear for more than 20 years that their goal is to replace public education with a system of universal vouchers that includes private and religious schools.
The heartbreaking drama currently playing in Milwaukee – millions of dollars cut from the public schools while vouchers are expanded so wealthy families can attend private schools in the suburbs – may be coming soon to a school district near you.
For those who worry about taxation without representation, vouchers should send shivers down your spine. Voucher schools are defined as private even though subsidized by taxpayers.

Rejected Milwaukee voucher schools sue

Erin Richards:

Eleven organizers who planned to open new voucher schools this fall but were rejected by the recently formed New Schools Approval Board have sued State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers and Marquette University.
In a lawsuit filed this month, the organizers contend that Evers and Marquette University violated the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment by turning over the legislative authority to approve voucher schools to a private party, the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette.
The school organizers are asking for an injunction restraining Evers from enforcing the new provisions passed by the Legislature this summer that tightened regulations on schools within the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, or voucher program.
Those provisions required that plans for new voucher schools be approved by the New Schools Advisory Board, part of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning, which is led by voucher and charter school advocate Howard Fuller.

Just 3 new Milwaukee voucher schools approved

Alan Borsuk:

A board authorized by the state Legislature to control the entry of schools into Milwaukee’s controversial private school voucher program is beginning its life with a powerful statement that it will stop any school it doesn’t think is prepared to provide a quality education from getting off the ground.
The New Schools Approval Board, part of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University, voted last week to give a green light to only three new voucher schools for this fall. Each of them involves an existing education program that has not received public voucher payments previously.
The board stopped 16 schools from opening, generally start-up operations that were on track to meet the requirements for opening that existed prior to this year.
Leaders of some of those organizations were angered by the decisions and say they will meet soon to consider further action, such as a lawsuit. The new state law provides no appeals process for decisions by the New Schools Approval Board.
Three schools will be the smallest number of new voucher participants in years. In the past five years, there have been between eight and 15 new schools in the voucher program each September. Combined with the closing of other schools, the total number of participating schools has stayed in the range of 120 to 125.

On Milwaukee’s Voucher Schools

Eugene Kane:

Over the years, I’ve often expressed my reluctance to join Howard Fuller in embracing the private school voucher program.


Fuller is a longtime Milwaukee educator and a nationally known leader of the school choice movement. He’s been involved in efforts to improve the education of black children since long before the program’s inception in 1990.



I have tremendous respect for Fuller but never really agreed with his advocacy of this particular educational policy due to my suspicions of where it would ultimately lead. There are a handful of solid private voucher schools in town, but I’ve seen too many examples of failed schools run by well-meaning adults – and in some cases by charlatans and hustlers – that eventually have left students with their studies temporarily interrupted.



There’s also the corrosive political atmosphere that has turned support for school choice into a partisan litmus test – Republicans for, Democrats against. I’ve often wondered why this community spends millions of dollars in taxpayer money to fund two separate school systems when it’s clear there’s not enough money to fund one properly.


Fuller always had a ready answer. For him, the main issue was giving low-income children a quality education. If the public schools couldn’t do that, he reasoned, why not give voucher schools a chance?



Last week, the debate over school choice reached another level after a long-awaited report – based on several studies of Milwaukee’s parental choice program and Milwaukee public schools – found essentially no major difference in the academic success of students in both systems. Fuller said those conclusions, along with recent proposals by Gov. Jim Doyle to increase accountability of choice schools, represented a significant moment for his movement.

57 apply to operate new Milwaukee voucher schools

Alan Borsuk:

In each recent year, the number of people saying they are opening voucher schools was similar to this year’s total and the number who made it into operation was in the single digits. The schools have substantial hurdles to clear, including getting a building that meets codes and signing up students and teachers.
In addition to the 57 new applicants, just about all of the current roster of voucher schools – around 120, including a few that do not appear to be operating at the moment – have applied to remain in the program next year.
Rising ranks of students
Put it all together and DPI is forecasting the number of low-income students using the state voucher program next year will be equal to about 20,500 full-time students, up from about 19,500 this year, an increase that is line with the pattern of recent years. (The actual number of students is higher than the “full time equivalent” figure because four-year-old kindergartners are funded at a fraction of other students. The actual number in September was 20,244.)

Another Milwaukee view: Voucher schools are part of the problem

Barbara Miner:

You want truly radical education reform in Milwaukee?
Form a countywide system so that Milwaukee children can, without restrictions, attend schools in Whitefish Bay and Greendale. Or launch a regional onslaught against the economic, housing and transportation disparities that, in the absence of locally owned breweries, now make Milwaukee famous.
Unfortunately, it’s not likely to happen. If you even mention the region’s divides, you are labeled as anti-suburban.
Luckily, the U.S. Census Bureau isn’t afraid of Milwaukee’s culture of silence about such realities. Once again (I’ve lost count of the many similar reports) Milwaukee made the news last week, for having the seventh-worst poverty rate of any major city. Waukesha County, in contrast, had the fifth-lowest poverty rate of any major county.

“Touting an Asset: Voucher Schools”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial:

The debate on school choice in Milwaukee is often punctuated with a whole lot of fingers poking the air and decibels assaulting the eardrums. The two sides are that far apart on the merits of the program, which allows parents of the city’s low-income students to opt into private education if they believe public schools aren’t serving their children’s needs.
A promotional campaign on television, radio and in print over the next four months will not settle the issue. We hope, however, that it enlightens policy-makers, particularly those in Madison, that this is a program that enjoys broad support locally and contains an abundance of success stories.
Yes, the same can be said of students and schools in the Milwaukee Public Schools system. That’s the point. Both deserve enthusiastic support. This should not be an either/or proposition. We’re way past that.
At least we should be. The fear from those behind this campaign is that the program is still vulnerable – that it might not be some bold legislation that undoes it but a death of a thousand cuts, legislatively speaking.
The fear is not unreasonable. The reaction to a memo sent by Rep. Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) to the governor was overblown. The proposals to diminish choice contained therein were meant as starting points for a discussion with the governor. Still, it’s understandable that the choice community would react the way it did given that the discussion even would start at some of those points. And Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker (D-Weston) has been a foe of school choice.

Milwaukee Voucher School Accreditation

Alan Borsuk: About 50 of 122 schools in the voucher program have no form of accreditation – no organization outside the school that is giving it a stamp of approval. Although some of the unaccredited schools should be able to get accreditation, the list includes almost all the schools that raise the most doubts among […]

“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.” […]

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 […]

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 […]

Public Support Climbs for Teacher Pay, School Expenditures, Charter Schools, and Universal Vouchers

Albert Cheng, Michael B. Henderson, Paul E. Peterson and Martin R. West: Education’s political landscape has shifted dramatically over the past year. To the consternation of most school-district officials, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos used the bully pulpit to promote charter schools, vouchers, and tax credits for private-school scholarships. To the distress of teachers unions, […]

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 […]

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 […]

Three Countries in 14 Minutes: School Choice Lessons From Abroad Vouchers, private schools, and open enrollment in France, Sweden, and New Zealand

Emily Richmond: School choice is one of the most contentious issues in K-12 education today. But it’s hardly an American invention. Sarah Butrymowicz of The Hechinger Report recently traveled to New Zealand, Sweden, and France to look at how school choice plays out, and whether there are lessons for the U.S. system. Why is New […]

Florida House passes sweeping schools and voucher bill

Gary Fineout: Following a sharply worded partisan debate, the Republican-controlled Florida House on Thursday passed a sweeping education bill that would add yet another private-school voucher program in the state while also making a vast array of changes on everything from school testing to how much money charter schools can receive. It’s the second year […]

Do School Vouchers Work? Look to Milwaukee

Tawnell Hobs: “The schools that have 20% to 30% voucher kids and 70% to 80% fee-paying kids, they look more like the private schools that we sort of put on a pedestal—that have very ambitious programs,” says Patrick Wolf, a professor of education policy at the University of Arkansas who has studied private-school choice programs […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

School Voucher Climate Commentary

Jessica Arp: “My main concern is that right now we are at a 20-year low in funding for public education so our public schools are already in a state of crisis,” Moffit said. Sierra disagrees and said vouchers are really about choice. “We pay taxes also,” Sierra said. “Nothing against public schools, but we decided […]

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 […]

More Public School Choices; Fewer Voucher Applicants

Cassandra MD Hart: This study examines public school characteristics, and public and private school market characteristics, associated with participation among elementary-aged students in a means-tested school voucher program in Florida. Participants are more likely than eligible nonparticipants to come from disadvantaged public schools on multiple dimensions. On average, participants’ public schools have lower aggregate student […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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.

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.

Bobby Jindal: War with feds over school vouchers still on

Caitlin Emma:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Tuesday that regardless of what the Department of Justice is claiming, his state is no closer to a resolution in a school voucher lawsuit that has appalled high-profile conservative school choice advocates.
The Justice Department sent a letter Tuesday to House Speaker John Boehner, saying the state has agreed to hand over information that the federal government has wanted for a while about the voucher program’s effect on the racial makeup of participating schools. That move might bring both parties closer to a resolution over the August suit, the letter said.
“…Louisiana agreed to provide information on the voucher program that the department had originally requested in May 2013 and that the state had, up until now, largely withheld. This is thus a major step forward and puts the parties on a path to resolving the primary issue that motivated the department’s court filing in the first place,” the DOJ letter to Boehner reads. “We are pleased that Louisiana finally has agreed to provide the necessary information to the department. It is only regrettable that the department had to resort to court involvement in this case in order to obtain it.”

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:

Wisconsin’s school vouchers are a scam

Dave Zweifel:

The recent news release from the State Department of Public Instruction revealing that 67 percent of the applicants to the Walker administration’s expanded school voucher program are already attending private schools elicited cries of “scam” from many quarters.
And well it should have.
That two-thirds of the voucher applicants had their children already enrolled in private schools lays waste the argument by Wisconsin legislative Republicans and the governor that vouchers are needed so poor families can rescue their children from poorly performing public schools.
That has always been a spurious argument, even back in the days when Gov. Tommy Thompson shepherded the nation’s first school choice program through the Legislature for low-income Milwaukee families. It was sold based on the argument that poor families, said to be ill-served by Milwaukee’s public school system, ought to be able to send their children to private schools just as do rich people. So, in order to do that with taxpayers’ money, vouchers were devised to technically make tuition grants to the families, which in turn would use them to pay the private schools.

Dana Goldstein on Sweden’s voucher system.

U.S. government sues to block vouchers in some Louisiana school systems

Danielle Dreilinger:

The U.S. Justice Department is suing Louisiana in New Orleans federal court to block 2014-15 vouchers for students in public school systems that are under federal desegregation orders. The first year of private school vouchers “impeded the desegregation process,” the federal government says.
Thirty-four school systems could be affected, including those of Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. John the Baptist and St. Tammany parishes. Under the lawsuit, the state would be barred from assigning students in those systems to private schools unless a federal judge agreed to it. A court hearing is tentatively set for Sept. 19.
The statewide voucher program, officially called the Louisiana Scholarship Program, lets low-income students in public schools graded C, D or F attend private schools at taxpayer expense. This year, 22 of the 34 systems under desegregation orders are sending some students to private schools on vouchers.

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.


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.

Wisconsin Private Schools Consider Whether to Join Voucher System

Matthew DeFour:

“If you have 10 students on vouchers in your school, are the test scores for those 10 going to be used for a report card when you’ve got 200 or 300 in your school?” Lancaster said.
The Legislature has yet to introduce a bill that would bring private voucher schools into the state’s public school accountability system, though the budget requires those schools to receive report cards a year after linking to the state’s student information system.
Walker said earlier this year he hoped to sign a bill with the details before the budget passed, which won’t happen. His office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he expects legislators to make progress on a proposal this summer and pass a bill during the next fall or spring session.
Lancaster said many schools were concerned about paying $900 to sign up for the program, only to not make the top 25. Last week the Assembly addressed that concern with a budget amendment that ensures the registration fee would be reimbursed to schools that don’t make the cut.
Some schools in the rural and suburban parts of the diocese don’t expect to have large enough low-income student populations to make it into the top 25, Lancaster said.

Much more on vouchers, here.