State Representative Blasts Milwaukee Parental Choice Program for…Raising Grad Rates?

By Christian D’Andrea
MacIver Institute Education Policy Analyst

On Wednesday, Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts (D-Middleton) called out the proposed expansion of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). Her amendment aimed to remove any language that would allow more students to use vouchers in Wisconsin. In her rhetoric, she cited Wisconsin’s graduation rate – currently #1 in the country – as the reason behind wanting to keep students, and funding, in public schools.

“You wouldn’t do this to the Badgers, you wouldn’t do this to the Packers, and you wouldn’t do this to the Brewers…because you want them to be number one,” Pope-Roberts said.

However, weakening the MPCP would be an immediate way to put Wisconsin’s spot on the top of the rankings at risk.

This year’s iteration of the School Choice Demonstration Project, a series of studies commissioned by the state to gauge the impact of the MPCP, points out a major flaw in Pope-Roberts’s argument. The most significant effect that voucher schools had on Milwaukee students was a higher graduation rate.

The study found that “a modest positive impact of the MPCP on student educational attainment.” This meant that in a comparison of students with similar backgrounds, MPCP students were seven percent more likely to graduate than their peers who stayed with MPS.

94 percent of MPCP students that stayed in the same institution for every year of their high school education graduated. Students meeting the same criteria in MPS graduated at a 75 percent rate.

[table id=5 /] *Data is from Year Four results of theĀ School Choice Demonstration Project.

Part of Wisconsin’s #1 ranking is thanks to a higher graduation rate in Milwaukee’s voucher program. Further stunting its growth would negatively affect this ranking. Even worse, it would negatively affect students. The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program is giving students in Wisconsin’s largest city better chances to graduate; better chances to be successful. Limiting its expansion won’t only hurt the state’s chance to be number one; it will hurt a generation of students who are just looking for a better opportunity to thrive.