Taking Stock and Moving Forward: Lessons From Two Plus Decades of Research on the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program

Michael R. Ford & Fredrik O. Andersson:

In this article we review the substantial literature on the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP), the U.S.’s oldest and largest urban school voucher program, and use the review to propose an agenda for second generation school voucher research. We review research on student-level impacts, public school response, parental decision-making, fiscal impacts, organizational churn, and the larger public policy issues resulting from Milwaukee’s voucher policy. We conclude that the balance of literature on the MPCP shows limited positive effects for voucher users, positive fiscal impacts for taxpayers, substantial numbers of school closures, and various externalities that need to be better understood given the program’s size and prominence. Given this, we suggest a future research agenda focused on the question of how to make voucher policies as successful as possible.