‘Ho-hum’ says much about school choice foes

Patrick McIlheran:

Ho-hum: Another study suggesting good results from school choice in Milwaukee, not that it will make much of a dent with the opposition.
This tells you something about the opposition.
The latest study links the ability of poor parents to take state aid to religious schools to improvements at Milwaukee Public Schools.
Researcher Rajashri Chakrabarti found that while school choice showed little effect on MPS early on, it showed a much bigger effect after key changes in late 1990s: The Wisconsin Supreme Court cleared the way for religious schools to take part, greatly increasing the options, and changes in funding made MPS feel the loss of students more keenly.
Math, language arts and reading scores at Milwaukee’s public schools showed more improvement after new competition came into the picture, says Chakrabarti. Scores improved more at schools that were more subject to competition – schools where a greater proportion of students were poor and could use a voucher if their parents chose. This shows the improvements weren’t driven by other changes in MPS, such as new leadership. It was the increased competition, she says.
It’s plain to Fuller, a former MPS superintendent, that choice helps public schools, too. “It gives a superintendent leverage,” he says. While there are many in MPS who try improving schools out of professionalism, there are some teachers and administrators who resist reform. Competition strengthens the reformers’ hand.