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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Expansion of the voucher program

Improved choice for families in Wisconsin via a tax credit?

One approach from state Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, would give parents who send their children to private schools a tax credit.

Grothman said Wisconsin families who send their children to private schools are paying double duty. Homeowners pay local property taxes that go towards funding public schools.

“It’s vital in this time as people keep getting squeezed financially by higher and higher property taxes that parents who exercise their freedom and send their children (to private school) receive a little bit of support from their tax return,” he said.

Some details of what will be proposed.

The credit will start at $1,500 per year for every first grade student and $2,500 for every ninth grade student. The following year, second and tenth graders will be added to the program with additional years added each year until all students will be covered by the 2021 school year.

Senator Grothman’s proposal is co-sponsored by Representative Andre Jacque.

“As a proud supporter of charter school expansion, open enrollment for public schools, and non-public school choice it is very important to be consistent in offering families in my district, and across the state, access to the full range of educational alternatives. When it comes to educational instruction, one type doesn’t fit all,” said Representative Jacque, further noting that the proposal would not reduce state public school funding. “We should always look at enhancing our state educational offerings to benefit students,” added Jacque.

While a tax credit would be good what about expansion of the Milwaukee program?

State Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and state Rep. Robin Vos, R-Racine, the co-chairs of the powerful Joint Finance Committee, are drafting a different voucher proposal.

Vouchers give poorer students the opportunity to enroll in specific private schools that meet compliance standards set by the state, such as teachers with bachelor’s degrees and statewide testing procedures.

As of now, vouchers are only allowed for K-12 students who reside in Milwaukee. Eligibility for the vouchers is limited by income, depending on the size of the family.

Jim Huebscher, executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, is generally supportive of providing more options to parents and their children.

“I think the Milwaukee program seems to work pretty well for the Catholic schools in Milwaukee, so if that’s the same model, I assume we’d be OK with it,” he said.

Not surprisingly there is opposition who wants the status quo.

But Joe Quick, a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, has concerns.

“School board members across the state are uniformally opposed to using public dollars for private schools. It’s just the antithesis of public education,” he said.

If for those involved in public schools it truly was “about the children” they wouldn’t be opposed to expansion of the voucher program or any option that gives parents a choice in where to obtain their child’s education.

Whether the voucher program is expanded  via a tax credit or expansion of the Milwaukee program it will be a positive for parents who want a choice in how and where their children are educated.


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