After the latest findings of a longitudinal study of Milwaukee’s famous school-choice plan came out last week, there were some screeds from some on the Left, hand-wringing from some on the Right, and gleeful pronouncements from the education establishment that vouchers don’t work.
The furor is way premature. The evidence does show that parental choice is no panacea for the nation’s educational woes – whoever said it was? – but the evidence also shows that voucher recipients in Milwaukee do at least as well on most measures of student performance as Milwaukee public-school students despite the fact that the private schools are far less expensive, not just to taxpayers but in general. The evidence shows that Milwaukee public schools are generating better results than comparable urban districts elsewhere, which is suggestive of a positive effect from competition. The evidence shows high parental and student satisfaction with the private education they are able to access with the vouchers. And the evidence isn’t yet in on the effects of the choice program on graduation rates.
For more, check out a funny piece from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s Christian Schneider that effectively puts the Milwaukee findings in context. The gist:
The report essentially says that MPCP student achievement gains are “slightly higher, but not significantly different” than comparable kids in MPS. This isn’t exactly the home run for which we choice advocates were waiting. But just because it falls short of the ideal dream scenario, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot in the report to love.
Also, I’ll recommend useful feedback about the Milwaukee voucher study from Greg Forster.