Jun 16

Researcher ‘stunned’ by high rate of voucher school failures in Milwaukee

Forty-one percent of all private schools that participated in the Milwaukee private school voucher program between 1991 and 2015 failed, according to a new study by a voucher school proponent who said he was stunned by the findings.

“I do not mean failed as in they did not deliver academically, I mean failed as in they no longer exist,” University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Professor Michael Ford wrote. “These 102 schools either closed after having their voucher revenue cut off by the Department of Public Instruction, or simply shut their doors. The failure rate for entrepreneurial start-up schools is even worse: 67.8 percent.”

Ford is a former vice president of School Choice Wisconsin.

In a summary of his study, he concludes:

“The larger, perhaps more troubling legacy of the first 25 years of the Milwaukee voucher experience is the problem of externalities…When a school closes, students and parents must find new schools, student records may be lost, student achievement will likely suffer, and the public investment in failed institutions is lost.

“In other words,” he writes, “school closures are disruptive, and inevitable in market-based school reforms that encourage entrepreneurship. Anyone in Milwaukee over the past two decades can remember specific cases of school failures, so the fact that failure occurred is likely not surprising, but I was admittedly stunned by the high failure rates.

“It speaks to something someone said to me back when I was on the front lines of school voucher policy…we have underestimated just how hard it is to build a quality choice school.”

Read Ford’s summary of his study:

Exploring the Rate and Causes of Voucher School Failure

Watch this report from Up Front With Mike Gousha on WISN TV:

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