School voucher use up 10 percent, The Business Journal, 2/12/12

posted Feb 14, 2012, 5:08 AM by Bill Duncan

(emphasis added)

Voucher use by Milwaukee students grew 10 percent in 2011-12 to 23,198 voucher students, reversing last year’s enrollment decline, according to the 14th annual census of schools participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) by the Public Policy Forum.

The growth is due, in part to changes to the program in the most recent state budget that allowed schools outside Milwaukee to join the program and expanded the eligibility to include families at higher income levels, said Anneliese Dickman, forum research director.

“As a result, more than 2,200 additional students are using vouchers worth $6,442 each, increasing the program’s cost by $14.2 million,” Dickman said.

The forum’s analysis also found that many of the new voucher users appear to have already been enrolled in private school. In 56 schools, the number of new voucher users exceed the growth in total enrollment in the school, while in 13 schools voucher growth and enrollment growth were equal.

“Broadening the income eligibility limits has benefited many students already attending private schools by allowing them to qualify for vouchers that are paying their tuition,” Dickman said. “This is not a new phenomenon, as over the past 10 years, total enrollment in the schools participating in the program has grown by roughly 5,300 students, while the number of voucher users has increased over twice as much.”

The income limits for voucher eligibility are now set at 300 percent of the federal poverty level, which means that a family of four earning up to $67,050 per year is now eligible. The median household income in Milwaukee is $35,921 per year.

Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent Gregory Thornton said the increase in students being educated by private schools is evidence that the schools must be held to the same level of accountability that Milwaukee Public Schools are. “We invite parents to compare the voucher school results with ours,” Thornton said.
Corrinne Hess covers health care and education for The Business Journal.