Milwaukee School Choice Shapes Educational Landscape

Alan Borsuk:

Time for a status report on all the different ways Milwaukee children can use public money to pay for their kindergarten through 12th grade education:

  • Private school voucher program enrollment: Up almost 5% from a year ago, just as it has been up every year for more than a decade.
  • City kids going to suburban public schools using the state’s “open enrollment” law: Up almost 11%, just as it has been up every year for about a decade.
  • Enrollment in charter schools given permission to operate by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee or Milwaukee’s City Hall: Up more than 19% and up substantially from a few years ago.
  • Enrollment of minority students from the city into suburban schools using the state’s voluntary racial desegregation law, known as Chapter 220: Up almost 5%, although the long-term trend has been downward.
  • Enrollment in what you can think of as the conventional Milwaukee Public Schools system: Down, but by less than 1%, which is better than other recent years. Mainstream MPS enrollment has been slipping every year and went under 80,000 a year ago for the first time in many years.

With all the controversy in recent months around whether to overhaul the way MPS is run, the half dozen other routes that Milwaukee children have for getting publicly funded education have been almost entirely out of the spotlight. But Milwaukee remains a place where the term “school choice” shapes the educational landscape in hugely important ways.
How important?