Facts on School Choice Green Bay

On May 17 the intention to expand School Choice to Green Bay was announced.  Not surprisingly when opponents of the program voiced their opposition.  Unfortunately this opposition is “straw man” in nature as pointed out in this response by School Choice Wisconsin.

First when looking at the Milwaukee School Choice Program:

• Graduation rates, a far better predictor of future success than test scores, have improved for students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and for students in Milwaukee Public Schools. MPCP students who stay in private schools graduate at the rate of 94 percent, compared to 75 percent for MPS students.
• State and local taxpayers pay less for a student in the MPCP than for a student in MPS. That would be true for school choice programs in Green Bay and Racine as well. Taxpayers pay less because support for an MPCP student is $6,442 while state and property taxpayer support for an MPS student is about $10,000.
• People who live in Milwaukee say the program is successful by a 2:1 margin.  They want more families to be able to participate, according to a recent poll.

Second DPI Superintendent Tony Evers attempted to use selective data from a longitudal study to falsely claim that School Choice in Milwaukee is failing.  Here’s what the study found according to the year four summary:

Although we have examined virtually every possible way that school choice could systematically affect people, schools, and neighborhoods in Milwaukee, we have found no evidence of any harmful effects of choice. Our major findings to date are:
• The MPCP remains popular among Milwaukee families, as evidenced by consistent and at times dramatic growth in MPCP enrollments over the past 12 years.
• The Choice program saves the government money — nearly $52 million in fiscal year 2011 — although not all types of Wisconsin taxpayers benefit from the
• Both the MPCP and the MPS have succeeded in denying public funds to, or closing, a substantial number of low-performing schools over the past four years.
• Attending a private high school through the MPCP increases the likelihood of a student graduating from high school and enrolling in college.
• Students in the MPCP appear to be performing at lower levels than MPS students in the younger grades but somewhat higher levels than MPS students in the older grades. When similar MPCP and MPS students are tracked carefully over time,
however, their rates of achievement growth are statistically similar after three years.
• MPS students themselves are performing at somewhat higher levels as a result of
competitive pressure from the school voucher program.

Another falsehood put forth by opponents of School Choice is in the area of serving special needs students.  As School Choice Wisconsin points out:

The SCDP reports that 8.7 percent of MPCP families said their child had a learning disability compared to 18.2 percent in MPS. The study said their findings “indicated that MPCP school personnel are less likely to identify slow learners specifically as ‘learning
disabled’ than are MPS school personnel. It is possible that some or even all of this large
difference in the reported rates of learning disabled students across the two groups is due to this difference in labeling practices and not necessarily because MPCP schools are serving fewer learning disabled students. There is very little difference in opinions between public and choice school parents regarding how well the school meets their
children’s needs regarding learning disabilities…”

Special needs students are identified differently in private and public schools. Private school students are given Service Plans while public school students receive Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). It is inaccurate to compare the percentage of special needs students in private and public schools by comparing the percentage of students with IEPs.

The biggest falsehood put forth by opponents of school choice and one that has been echoed by Green Bay Superintendent Greg Maas is that the program is an attack on public schools.  In reality the program provides parents with an option when it comes to their child’s education.

And it’s an option that costs taxpayers less in the long run.  Which is why it should be an option for parents in the Green Bay School District.

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