How Vouchers Have Changed Milwaukee Neighborhoods

Published December 1, 2000

On a recent fact-finding trip to Milwaukee arranged by the Greater Educational Opportunities Foundation of Indianapolis, Barato Britt noted the following observations on how school vouchers had brought positive change to the city’s neighborhoods.

Schools Are Revitalizing Communities

“Milwaukee is the rebirth of public education. Make no mistake: What we’re doing is public education. We’re going to be so far ahead of the rest of the country that everyone will soon have to play catch-up.

“We have begun to understand now that we’re part of the community in which we serve. Without market pressures, you cannot change a school system. To revitalize a community, people have to have the means and they have to have the reason. We believe we are accomplishing that.”
John Gardner, Board member
Milwaukee Public Schools

Competition Forced Changes

“Vouchers expressed extreme frustration with our organization. I’m glad they’re here, because it gives me an entrée for what I need to do. At least the specter of competition is raised. Hopefully, this will force parents to make us lead with quality.”
Dr. Spence Korte, Superintendent
Milwaukee Public Schools

Beacons of Hope in the Community

“When I looked at the previous system, I found that many of my constituents were not happy.

“These schools are about more than just education; they are beacons of hope for this community. The advent of school choice has injected–and charter schools have injected–competition into the marketplace, and the community is benefitting.”
Antonio Riley
Wisconsin State Representative (Democrat)

The Community Working Together

“[Messmer High School] has become the hub of this neighborhood. People are beginning to see the signs of hope. We’ve taken something that was deteriorating, and we’re now providing hope. But the best part is, we are not the only school doing it. That is directly due to choice.

“Vouchers have opened the door for many families who had no opportunities. At the end of the day, the community is working together.”
Brother Bob Smith, president
Messmer High School, a voucher-redeeming Catholic School

Everyone Profits from Choice

“The bottom line is, everyone should have access to the best education for their children. My children were drowning, I had no options.

“Because of the choice program, parents are now consumers of education. MPS is wooing us back now. There are parents out there that are paying attention now.

“When we allow things like this to happen, when we pursue choice, everyone profits. Businesses get competent employees, everyone benefits.”
Linda Armstrong
Mother of children who attend voucher schools

City Stability and School Choice

“We look at choice as the defining issue of change here. Vouchers are about parents who sought something better. The battle forced this community to wake up. It created a movement like I’ve never seen, and it’s still going.

“Things are now starting to change, because of school choice. School choice is not just about education; it’s about the stability of a city. The school choice movement is about economics and education, one without the other is no good.”
Mikel Holt, Associate Publisher
Milwaukee Community Journal
Author, Not Yet Free At Last

School Technology Benefits Community

“The determination of our location was purposeful, not accidental. We never forget where we are located; in fact, the idea was to bring technology into this community. They didn’t have a place like this before.

“Technology is the great equalizer. If it’s not in a community, how can that community benefit from it?”
Dr. Christine Faltz, Principal
Central City Cyberschool
a charter school located in Milwaukee’s Parklawn Housing Development

Choice Part of City Marketplace

“School choice is essential to cities. The people that live in the cities can become productive citizens because choice increases productivity.

“What is important for us is that the system does not suppress the number of choices for parents. It is important to have all the elements of a market regardless of where you live. Whether it is formally or informally, there have to be elements of information, choice, minimal standards and consequences. Unless you have the ability to determine the consequences of failure, you’ll have a failed marketplace. With choice, we’re beginning to put together these four different elements.

“A properly functioning market produces better outcomes. This notion of education contributing to better markets is not an abstraction; it’s proven.”
David Riemer, Director of Administration
Office of Mayor John Norquist