Milwaukee Public School reforms must include choice expansion, says advocate

(The Center Square) – The head of Wisconsin’s largest school choice group says the recent troubles at Milwaukee Public Schools both show the need for school choice and is the perfect…

(The Center Square) – The head of Wisconsin’s largest school choice group says the recent troubles at Milwaukee Public Schools both show the need for school choice and is the perfect opportunity for more school choice.

School Choice Wisconsin president Nic Kelly’s op-ed piece largely stayed away from the recent news that MPS is months-late in turning in required financial reports to the state.

Instead, he focused on MPS’ poor test scores and lack of accountability

“No response to the regrettable MPS debacle will be adequate if it does not include expanded educational choice for all families. Every child deserves an exit pass,” Kelly wrote. “Educational choice is the single policy with demonstrable results in the decades of MPS “reform” efforts. Scores of choice students have gone up while those of MPS students have declined.”

Kelly said more than half of parents in Milwaukee now take advantage of some kind of school choice.

The numbers, Kelly added, show those parents’ children continue to do better than MPS students.

“The most comprehensive study of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program shows that private choice students enter the program performing at significantly lower levels than the average MPS student. Nonetheless, for the last several years choice students on average are outperforming MPS,” Kelly said. “[The comparison includes] choice students from low-income and working-class families with MPS students of all income levels, including those at MPS selective admission schools. The performance gap between choice and MPS students would be much larger if the comparison were between students with similar demographic backgrounds.”

Kelly’s numbers show that choice students score about 4 points higher on reading tests, and nearly 5 points higher on math tests in the state.

Kelly ended his piece with a plea for action from lawmakers.

“It’s time to remove family income eligibility limits so that all Milwaukee families have the private school option that is demonstrably working for currently eligible families and for the city,” Kelly added.

Wisconsin Republicans were able to negotiate an expansion of school choice funding in the current state budget. But Gov. Evers, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and Milwaukee Public School leaders have opposed all expansion of school choice programs.