MILWAUKEE--()--High school dropouts earn less, contribute less to the tax base, and are more likely to go to prison — sobering facts that underscore the importance of a new study showing that the graduation rate for students in Milwaukee’s 20-year-old school choice program was 18 percent higher than for students in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).
“On any given day, about one in every 10 young male high school dropouts is in jail or juvenile detention, compared with one in 35 young male high school graduates…The picture is even bleaker for African-Americans.”
The findings, from a leading national expert who analyzed six years of data, estimate that 3,352 additional Milwaukee students would have received diplomas between 2003 and 2008 if public school graduation rates had matched those of low-income students using educational vouchers. Based on a separate study reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Erin Richards, the annual impact from 3,352 more MPS graduates would include an additional $21.2 million in personal income and $3.6 million in extra tax revenue.
“This new study deserves the attention of state and federal officials — including President Barack Obama — who seek education reforms that produce solid results,” said Jeff Monday, principal of Milwaukee’s nationally recognized Messmer High School.
The author of the new study, University of Minnesota Professor John Robert Warren, estimated a 2008 graduation rate of 77% for school choice students and 65% for public school students. The difference — twelve percentage points — translates into an 18% higher rate for voucher students. Dr. Warren found a similar average difference for the six-year period of 2003 through 2008.
In last week’s State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated a recurring theme that he and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan have stressed: “The idea here is simple. Instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform that raises student achievement.”
“If President Obama wants to fund proven school reform, I urge him to look at Milwaukee’s voucher program, which has proven to be both effective and has saved taxpayers tens of millions,” said Terry Brown, President of St. Anthony’s Catholic School. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently called St. Anthony’s “a powerhouse on the local [educational] scene.” St. Anthony’s is the largest grade school — public or private — in Milwaukee.
The higher graduation rates for students in Milwaukee’s private school choice program are noteworthy because per pupil taxpayer support for choice students ($6,442) is less than half the $14,011 spent in the Milwaukee Public Schools.
In the new study, Professor Warren explains that eligibility for the choice program is limited to students from low-income families while “students in MPS schools come from a much broader range of social and economic backgrounds.”
Recognition is growing that low graduation rates present a fundamental barrier to the future of young Americans. Congressman George Miller (D-CA), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee said that “the dropout crisis we’re seeing in our nation’s high schools is real, it’s urgent, and it must be fixed.” The New York Times’ Sam Dillon, describing a Northeastern University study, reported that “On any given day, about one in every 10 young male high school dropouts is in jail or juvenile detention, compared with one in 35 young male high school graduates…The picture is even bleaker for African-Americans.”
A full copy of Professor Warren’s report is available at: http://www.schoolchoicewi.org/currdev/detail.cfm?id=309.
Professor Warren notes that researchers at the University of Arkansas are conducting a detailed study of the choice program. He said their work might offer explanations for the higher graduation rates of choice students.
Note to reporters: