Vouchers have been greatly expanded since Scott Walker and the Republicans took power over state government in 2011, with income limits raised and schools outside of the Milwaukee area have also become able to join in the voucher game. But the Public Policy Forum report notes that this expansion hasn't led to new schools and approaches in Milwaukee, but has instead added students (and the taxpayer dollars that come with them) to schools that already had voucher students. And many of those students who get vouchers don't stay in the same schools for their entire K-12 careers, leading to greater disruptions in that student's life.
In Chart 2, we show how each of those factors contributed to overall MPCP [aka voucher] student increases and decreases from the 2009-10 school year to the present. For example, in the 2013-14 school year, the number of MPCP pupils grew by 813 students, but this was the net effect of 2,212 students joining the ranks of already-certified schools, 363 pupils enrolling in new schools, 988 students leaving existing schools, and a 744 student loss associated with schools no longer in the voucher program.And it isn't just that students are coming in and out of voucher schools without innovation being expanded, but the students in voucher schools don't do as well as those who stay in MPS.
As might have been predicted by our discussion of school participation above, voucher student growth clearly is being driven much more by the expansion of already-certified choice schools than from schools new to the MPCP. If a goal of the 2011-13 budget changes was to see the variety of schooling opportunities expanded, then the question of why the roster of new schools is not expanding at a
faster rate may need to be examined.
A closer look at where student gains and losses occur over time also suggests that the MPCP experiences a significant amount of student mobility—that is, students moving between schools....Pupil increases in existing and new MPCP schools are, to a large extent, offset by losses from existing and closed schools. This offset means that the net growth of MPCP students is much less than would be predicted just by looking at the number of new voucher students in existing and new schools.
2012-13 Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination scores, all grades
Rates of proficiency
Math- 20.5% MPS schools, 13.1% Voucher schools
Reading- 15.0% MPS schools, 11.1% Voucher schools
Bad enough, but the Public Policy Forum notes that if a private school has an increasing percentage of voucher students, it actually does worse.
When we correlate these data—test scores and voucher concentration— the analysis suggests that for every 1% rise in voucher student concentration, the percentage of students who are proficient or advanced in reading drops by .8%, and drops by .7% for math (significant at the .01 level).So instead of being a magic pill that will drive up student performance, the Public Policy Forum notes that taking vouchers have a NEGATIVE affect on a school's performance, and schools that are reliant on vouchers to survive perform especially bad (one place called "Destiny High School" had nothing but voucher students, and scored a 0% for Reading proficiency, and 1.4% for math, and another all-voucher school "Ceria M. Travis Academy, Inc.", had a 0% for Reading and 0.5% for Math).
On the surface, there is no reason to believe there is a material difference in terms of academic potential between choice students in schools with high concentrations of choice pupils and choice students in schools with low concentrations of choice pupils. Consequently, it is logical to ask why voucher students in schools with higher percentages of voucher students perform comparatively poorly.
Racine voucher schools did slightly better than Milwaukee, at 18.5% in Reading proficiency and 24.4% in Math. But it's also worth mentioning that the Racine voucher program didn't start until 2011, so many of these students started their academic careers either in Racine public schools, or already were attending these schools without the vouchers. If the Milwaukee experience is any indication, this could be a high-water mark, instead of something where they're "getting the kinks out" and will score better on in the future.
But of course, the WisGOPs that put the vouchers into law didn't really care about improving school performance in Wisconsin, but instead passed these laws to divert taxpayer dollars out of the public schools and into the pockets of the voucher school operators. And as the public schools are robbed of resources and chances to succeed, with teacher pay continuing to drop and the profession being devalued, they can continue the cycle of defunding the publics while moving money to their campaign contributors. And the fact that the voucher schools are underperforming public schools in Milwaukee isn't a matter of concern to these guys. Getting paid and staying in power is.