Mythbusting Criticisms of School Choice

Let’s Begin By Understanding Where We Are

We often hear that schools participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) are not held “accountable.” Contrary to this popular belief, however, these schools are subject to significant accountability measures and regulation. Based on the analysis in this essay and previous research, it is not possible to conclude that public schools are held more accountable than schools in the choice program or vice versa.

Will Expansion of School Choice Make Public School Districts Worse Off?

Is the sky about to fall on Wisconsin public education? The concerns of expansion opponents were prompted by a recent memo prepared by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB), which estimated that districts’ $600-800 million in state aid could be used to fund vouchers. No one knows for sure whether that will actually happen. Even if it does, another LFB memo estimated that public school districts will take in a total of $94 billion in state and property taxes over the same period. In other words, if statewide voucher expansion costs $800 million over the same period, that reduction in state aid to public schools (who will, of course, no longer educate departing students) would amount to less than one percent (0.85%) of their total state and local revenue.

Busting Six Myths About School Choice

Too often, opponents of school choice – including scholars – often make arguments against choice without supplying any evidence to support their claims. For instance, the Madison Metropolitan School District issued a statement about the biennial budget as it made its way through the Joint Finance Committee:

“… the budget proposal also provides more taxpayer funding to private school vouchers and independent charter schools, which will drain resources from local public schools for years to come. Neither private school vouchers or [sic] independent charters have a consistent record of improving education for children.”

So do private schools drain resources? As it turns out, these claims are false. Unfortunately, such misconceptions are rampant, necessitating, from time to time, a little mythbusting in order to keep the discussion honest. We present 5 myths and misconceptions about school choice in Wisconsin – along with evidence to show why they are wrong.

Busting Four MORE Myths About School Choice

As the Wisconsin legislative session comes to a close, it is time for another edition of WILL school choice “myth busting.” During the session, there has been no shortage of education topics in the news – from voucher funding to the U.S. Justice Department’s investigation of the Milwaukee school choice program. Unfortunately, more often than not, this has resulted in a distortion and twisting of the truth. As a result, some myth busting is required.

Back to the Future

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker releases his 2017-2019 state budget on February 8. This starts a roughly four month debate about how the State should spend taxpayer money on K-12 education. Hopefully Governor Walker and members on the Joint Finance Committee will release bold education reforms such as lifting the caps on the statewide voucher program. Unfortunately as we see every year, the budget will bring out the same old talking points from those opposed to education reform and school choice. We know what they will be: accusations of school choice draining resources at public schools, outrage at Republicans for defunding public education, rants against unaccountable private schools, blasting private schools for discriminating against special needs children, etc.

So, in order to prepare for the upcoming debates, we step into our DeLorean time machine to answer the attacks that the opponents of education reform will make – before they actually make them.

Accountability in Action

After 27 years of school choice in Milwaukee, the debate over private school vouchers has shifted away from their mere existence towards whether – and how – accountability provisions should impact the ability of private schools to participate in the program. The education community is divided over this question. Some argue that test-based accountability should sanction poor-performing schools of all types, others argue that parental school choice, fiscal,
and market forces are the strongest forms of accountability and are the measures that should be utilized.

Yet despite the amount of ink spilled on the topic, there has been little quantifiable research conducted. This study addresses that research gap. It comprehensively reviews the extent and impact of accountability regulations affecting the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) and also analyzes the role of parental accountability. This pioneering report describes the scope
of the accountability regime and presents a statistical analysis that estimates its impact. We find, through the use of a rigorous econometric model, that the accountability system culls poor performing and unsafe schools from the program and allows high quality schools to grow. The system anticipates factors associated with poor-performing schools and their eventual failure.

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