The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) has done it again. A study released today that WILL is calling “the definitive look at school test scores in Milwaukee and Wisconsin,” provides an honest appraisal of Wisconsin schools.
Here are a few things that jumped off the page:
Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) specialty schools are no different than regular neighborhood MPS schools.
It is universally agreed that MPS specialty schools like Ronald Reagan and Golda Meir outperform most schools in Milwaukee.
The WILL study asks, “Why?”
It turns out that what these schools are doing has less to do with the success than what students are sitting in the classrooms. By controlling for students’ race and socio-economic status, the WILL study shows that MPS specialty schools do no better than traditional neighborhood schools and perform significantly lower than the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program averages.
In short, specialty schools that have selective admissions processes are more affluent and have less Black and Hispanic students than traditional MPS schools. These factors have a direct impact on their overall test scores.
The racial achievement gap exists
The study concludes that no matter what kind of school it is, if the student body is non-white, math proficiency rates are 46.5% lower and English proficiency rates are nearly 53% lower than schools that are all white.
That’s devastating. Perhaps it can be a rallying point for minority leaders in the community to unite around meaningful reforms to save Wisconsin’s minority kids?
University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee charters are best
UWM is the leader when it comes to authorizing successful charter schools. The study shows that UWM charter schools have 9% higher proficiency rates in English and 7% higher proficiency rates in Math based on Forward exam scores.
That’s real progress and UWM deserves credit for fostering this student achievement.
There’s much more to this study and you should read it if you’re interested in Wisconsin’s schools. Even if you generally avoid WILL’s work, give this report a try, as it outlines uncomfortable realities we need to wrangle with if our community is serious about improving education for all students.
Where’s the Latino leadership when it comes to education reform? Latinos themselves support education reform at higher levels than other groups, but their elected officials—whether Latino or not—often reject school choice. The leading Latino civil rights organizations follow suit.
Last month, both the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) joined other organizations in expressing a “deep concern” about the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. The groups decry DeVos’s support of “voucher schemes which siphon away all-too-limited education funds” and suggest her positions on women’s healthcare (read: ‘abortion’) and affirmative action are reasons to scuttle her appointment.
I’m not suggesting that all Latinos agree on every issue. Since the DeVos nomination, a lot of ink has been spilled about whether she will make a good Secretary of Education—for Latinos or anyone else. Many reasonable people have reservations. So be it. As Michael Petrilli pointed out, the education reform world is composed of many voices, and that should be celebrated.
But when Latino organizations stridently contradict what many surveys tell us are the desires of Latino voters, they must be called to account. LULAC’s education policy platform heaps scorn on vouchers, tax credit scholarships, and education savings accounts. It says, “LULAC strongly opposes vouchers and any other funding method that will limit public education resources.” Which “Latin American Citizens” is LULAC speaking for here?
It could be that LULAC’s membership doesn’t include the 71 percent of Latinos who told EdChoice, in a 2015 survey, that they support vouchers. Or the 73 percent that said they support education savings accounts. More likely, what we are seeing here is a chasm between striving Latino parents who want school choice and groups like LULAC who make a cottage industry out of their supposed interests.
The lack of solid Latino leadership in education reflects the dearth of Latino leadership in general. According to a 2013 Pew Research survey, 62 percent of Latinos cannot name a national leader or believe that none exists.
This response alone calls into question the legitimacy of national organizations that claim to speak on behalf of Latinos. What’s more embarrassing: An earlier Pew Survey asked whether participants could recognize the names of eight “prominent” Latinos. Janet Murguia, CEO of NCLR, came in last with only 8 percent of respondents identifying her. Whoever leads LULAC didn’t even make the list.
There is a flicker of hope. In the Pew survey, Senator Marco Rubio was named by 5 percent of respondents. Rubio might be the most prominent Latino supporter of education reform.
Latino leaders also exist at the state level, and they may soon emerge on the national scene as advocates for reform. In my home state of Wisconsin, I think of State Representative Jessie Rodriguez. I’ve met inspiring regional leaders like New Mexico State Representative Monica Youngblood and New York Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, who are on the front lines in their communities supporting school choice. The education reform movement needs to lift up leaders like these.
We must also support the development of new Latino leaders. The parents of Latino children are obvious candidates for these roles. No one can provide a more compelling case for school choice than parents, and as one in four U.S. students is Latino, there are a lot of parents out there able to step forward if given the chance.
Look at my friend Esther. Esther lives in Kenosha, Wisconsin. She and her family moved here from Mexico for a job. Unimpressed with public schools, she approached a private religious school intending to beg the school’s staff to help her find a way to pay tuition so her son could enroll. To her delight, she learned her family qualified for Wisconsin’s parental choice program, which Esther didn’t know existed.
Now, Esther spreads the word about school choice in her community. She has hosted meetings at her home and served as a hub of information about options for people who may not know about them otherwise. By letting free and informed choice rip, she’s letting freedom ring. Vouchers in Wisconsin and choice programs in other states make parents the masters of their own destiny and agents in their own kids’ development. Parents know that’s good.
We need to help parents like Esther get the resources they need. Give them access to the right programs, and you change the trajectory of their children’s lives. Esther isn’t the one writing Op-Eds or lobbying in statehouses. She doesn’t have a sleek corner office. But she knows the heart of the Latino community better than anyone because she is the community. And Latinos like Esther are the backbone of education reform because their kids will soon fill the majority of classroom seats.
Working together, reformers and Latino parents have an opportunity to usher in an era where school choice is the norm. By the time the children of the parents we know are old enough to run for office, we want them to be armed with knowledge and prepared to lead. By holding close to the community and its values, we can achieve that dream.
This article, by our executive director Jason Crye, originally appeared at Flypaper.
Establishment folks in public education have done their best to make charter schools and other parental choice programs look like the Devil. Their story about how such programs drain money from public schools now seems as much a part of American folklore as Pecos Bill or Paul Bunyan. How many times did you see the words “siphoning money” in print in the weeks prior to Betsy DeVos’s confirmation?
But there’s a difference between propaganda and reasoned discourse. The truth is that traditional public schools do not need and should not claim public funds that would have come to kids who no longer sit in their classrooms. When they take advantage of new policy opportunities, including the funds they provide, private and charter schools are cheating no one. They are innovators who are fulfilling our nation’s promise to educate its children.
Parental choice programs do indeed transfer funds from some schools to other schools. Usually, they take from schools that can’t give kids what they need and give to ones that can. But it’s not that one school is the white- and the other the black-hatted cowboy; it’s not that one school is “public” and the other is a public enemy. All of the diverse school options supported by public funds comprise the public education system.
There is another financial aspect of public education for us to consider in the debate over school choice: the long-term burden that taxpayers bear when our public schools fail to educate students—for generations.
A recent study from my home state of Wisconsin suggests that, far from swindling taxpayers, Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program (“MPCP”) will save them half a billion dollars in the long term.
As someone who lives in Milwaukee, I know what happened with St. Marcus School Lutheran School. St. Marcus is urban, and close to 100 percent of its kids are poor. But 90 percent of students at St. Marcus graduate.
In 2013, this school wanted to expand. It found an empty public school building with an assessed value of $880,000. But the City of Milwaukee required a $1.3 million fee in addition to the purchase price. Why? Well, to cover the “cost” to the community of students leaving Milwaukee’s traditional schools. The exorbitant price killed any possibility of a deal. And it was based on a myth.
Science to the rescue: the failed St. Marcus deal roused Dr. Will Flanders of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and Dr. Corey DeAngelis of the University of Arkansas. The men worked together to investigate potential taxpayer losses due to schools participating in the MPCP. In their study, Flanders and DeAngelis discovered that, far from causing losses, schools like St. Marcus have a major positive tax impact. This is down to what I underlined in the beginning: high graduation rates.
By running the numbers on welfare and tax revenues and the impact of graduation rates on earning potential, the study found that MPCP grads could generate a positive inflow of $473 million to taxpayers by 2035. DeAngelis and Flanders also found that students from schools like St. Marcus will commit fewer crimes, so they’ll save another $26 million in public revenue by reducing the need for police officers and prisons.
Flanders says, “The debate over school choice is almost always focused on the so-called costs. What we want to show is the other side of the ledger, the economic benefits of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, and how higher graduation rates and lower criminality [are] associated with earning a better job and being less reliant on government programs and welfare.”
My experience on the ground bears that out.
A while back, I met a man named Jose. He is father to two students in a private school I was visiting. The tattoos on his face marked him as a former criminal, and indeed he had been in gangs and gone to jail. But his marred face was transformed by a radiant smile. Beaming with pride, Jose told me he personally drives his kids to school every day. Watching them enter the building in the morning, he knows they are on the path to college. They won’t make the mistakes he did.
The DeAngelis-Flanders study merely quantifies what parents like Jose already know: when moms and dads are empowered to choose the best learning environment for their kids, achievement follows. After graduation, these students flourish at work. Individual families win, but so do the city and the country as a whole. That’s good parenting and good economics.
As Americans, we can’t let entrenched interests or old institutions cut off kids’ futures just because it is easier or more comfortable for them in the short term. A dream like our American dream needs planning. It needs work. The wise citizen looks far ahead. The brave and patriotic citizen isn’t afraid to break new ground to get to the city on a hill of which Winthrop spoke. A neighbor who cares about his neighbors—and his neighbors’ kids—will cast off what’s old and broken in the public schools for something new that works.
This article, by our executive director Jason Crye, originally appeared at Flypaper.
La Coalición de los partidarios de Opción Escolar De Wisconsin Felicita a Betsy DeVos por la Confirmación del Senado para ser Secretaria de Educación
School Choice Wisconsin, Hispanics for School Choice, el Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty y el American Federation for Children expresan optimismo de que la política nacional de educación se centrará en las oportunidades educativas para las familias de América
7 de Febrero del 2017 – Milwaukee, WI – Una coalición de partidarios de la opción escolar felicitó hoy a Betsy DeVos por su voto de confirmación en el Senado de los Estados Unidos para ser Secretaria de Educación. DeVos fue confirmada por una votación de 51-50, con el vicepresidente Mike Pence ejerciendo el voto decisivo.
El grupo de partidarios—School Choice Wisconsin, Hispanics for School Choice, el Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty y el American Federation for Children—tiene la esperanza de que con la votación de hoy, la Sra. DeVos podrá volcar su atención a las apremiantes necesidades del sistema educativo de Estados Unidos y dar a todos nuestros hijos una oportunidad de éxito y un futuro mejor.
“Betsy DeVos trae consigo décadas de experiencia en empoderar padres a una administración que hizo un compromiso político de centrar la educación en el estudiante. Transferir el poder del gobierno federal a los estados requiere de un líder que acepte el cambio.
“La Señora DeVos ha estado íntimamente involucrada en los esfuerzos de reforma educativa aquí en Wisconsin. Su expediente demuestra un compromiso inequívoco con todos los niños sin importar su código postal o el tipo de escuela. Su enfoque continuo será apoyar a aquellos líderes innovadores que sobresalen.
“Como líderes de educación en Wisconsin, estamos entusiasmados con su compromiso de enviar más poder y flexibilidad a los estados para que podamos tener una mayor voz en la política educativa.
“Los Senadores que votaron para confirmar a la Sra. DeVos deben ser elogiados por actuar en nombre de padres de familia y estudiantes, ya que las fuerzas bien financiadas que protegen el status quo reaccionaron con una hipérbola previsible.”
School Choice Wisconsin, Hispanics for School Choice, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, and American Federation for Children express optimism that national education policy will center on educational opportunities for America’s families
February 7, 2017 – Milwaukee, WI – A coalition of school choice advocates today congratulated Betsy DeVos on her U.S. Senate confirmation vote to be Secretary of Education. DeVos was confirmed on a 51-50 vote, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the deciding vote.
The group of advocates – School Choice Wisconsin, Hispanics for School Choice, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, and American Federation for Children – is hopeful that with today’s vote, Mrs. DeVos can now turn her attention to the pressing needs of America’s education system and give all of our children an opportunity for success and a better future.
“Betsy DeVos brings decades of experience of empowering parents into an administration that made a policy commitment to student-centered education. Transferring power from the federal government back to the states requires a leader who welcomes change.
“Mrs. DeVos has been intimately involved in education reform efforts here in Wisconsin. Her record shows an unequivocal commitment to all children regardless of zip code or school type. Her continued focus will be on supporting those innovative leaders who excel.
“As leaders in Wisconsin education, we are excited about her commitment to sending more power and flexibility back to the states so that we can have a greater say in education policy.
“The Senators that voted to confirm Mrs. DeVos should be commended for standing on behalf of parents and students as well-funded forces protecting the status quo reacted with predictable hyperbole.”