MacIver Educational Choice Census for City of Milwaukee


WUWM ran a four minute feature on our Educational Choice Census.

You can listen to it here.

New figures suggest that over 75 percent of Milwaukee’s K-12 population attend a school  other than their traditional public neighborhood school, according to the MacIver Institute’s Educational Choice Census.

Thanks to the expanding presence of school options, including the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, charter schools, homeschooling, and magnet/specialty schools, over 87,000 of the city’s students are able to choose an educational option that fits them best. This number far exceeds the Wisconsin’s average, which sees approximately 25% of students taking advantage of public or private school choice programs.

Total K-12 population in City of Milwaukee 115,022

Milwaukee 2009 Enrollment Total Students % of Total Student Population
Traditional Public Schools 27,831 24.20%
Public Charter Schools 17,612 15.31%
Public Online Charter (Virtual) Schools 977 0.85%
Open Enrollment public school transfers 4,562 3.97%
Chapter 220 public school transfers    
-Interdistrict Transfers 2,720 2.36%
-Intradistrict Transfers 24,796 21.56%
Three-Choice Enrollment* 6,883 5.98%
Private Schools 28,893 25.12%
Homeschooling 748 0.65%
Students Exercising Choice 87,191 75.80%
*Estimate based on MPS reporting of students attending neighborhood schools (District Communications Plan May 2008 – Revised 11.25.09)

More than 25% of Milwaukee’s K-12 students are able to take advantage of more traditional school choice programs, including private schools and homeschooling. Many of these private school students (19,414) were aided by the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which provides vouchers to low-income families to attend private institutions.

Approximately 15.5% of the city’s students take advantage of emerging public-based choice mechanisms, which include charter schools, open enrollment, online charter (virtual) schools, and Chapter 220 inter-district transfers. These students still attend publicly run schools, but use options laid out for them to choose the state-funded institution which fits them the best – whether that school is a charter school in their district, a public school in another county, or even online classes.

Rounding out the total are a group of students who use choice to remain in publicly branded schools in Milwaukee with alternative curricula or structuring, as well as students attending city schools outside of their own geographic areas. Over 20% of the city’s student population participates in Chapter 220 intra-district transfers to shape the paths of their education. This includes magnet and specialty schools, as well as merged attendance area (school pairing) programs.

This number has expanded significantly in recent years as Chapter 220 regulations expanded transfer options in 1995. This change included students attending schools that serve an entire district, increasing the scope of choice students through the addition of more eligible institutions. As a result, many students who would not be thought of as traditional users of school choice programs are included in the census due to their use of intra-district transfer aid and the flow of funding between schools. This accounts for nearly 25,000 MPS students.

Finally, Three Choice Enrollment allows families in Milwaukee to choose the public school that they want their children to attend. Parents are given the opportunity to list their three top institutional choices, and students are placed in schools according to classroom availability. Over 99 percent of participants are selected to attend their preferred schools – which plays a major role in why only 24.2 percent of the city’s elementary students attend their local public schools.

The results showcase the overwhelming presence of options in the city that pioneered modern school choice. More than three out of every four of Milwaukee’s school children chooses every day to attend schools outside of their traditional geographically assigned public classroom. In Wisconsin, Milwaukee has shown that it is the leader in school choice and educational options, regardless of whether they are public or private.