Milwaukee’s private-school voucher program has swelled to nearly 25,000 students in 113 schools that largely mirror local public schools in terms of race and poverty, and rapid enrollment growth is raising new questions about how much taxpayer money the private schools should receive to adequately serve students.
Results from an annual survey of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program released Wednesday underscore what’s already well-known about the voucher program: Participating private schools spend less to educate each pupil than Milwaukee Public Schools but offer little achievement data about how those pupils are doing.
The survey also offers a new reason that the voucher schools’ per-pupil costs may be lower: About a third of the private schools report they do not have specialty teachers for subjects such as art, music and physical education.
MPS has also struggled to provide adequate numbers of specialty teachers in an era of tight budgets.
The survey results come from the Public Policy Forum, a Milwaukee policy research organization that conducted its 15th annual census of the voucher program in Milwaukee, which is in its 23rd year. The forum also now surveys the 2-year-old voucher program in Racine.
“Overall, we find that students who receive vouchers to attend these private schools look very much like students in MPS, but we are not investing much in them as a public,” said Anneliese Dickman, research director for the forum. “The results raise the question of whether these are the types of low-income students who deserve more funding.”