The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) has been providing private school vouchers to low-income students since 1990. During the 2016–17 school year, 28,188 students participated in the program.
More Grads, Less Crime
The study, titled “The Economic Benefit of School Choice in Milwaukee,” found students who attend high-performing schools are more likely to graduate from high school, be employed, stay out of prison, and be less dependent on welfare and other government services.
“By 2035, because of higher high school graduation rates, students who use a voucher in the MPCP will generate $473 million economic benefits to Wisconsin more than similar students at [Milwaukee Public Schools],” the study reports. “Graduating from high school is associated with being more likely to earn a higher income throughout life—which results in more tax revenue, less likely to need expensive, government-funded medical care, and a lower likelihood of being reliant on welfare.
“By 2035, in total, because of less crime committed, students who use a voucher in the MPCP will generate $26 million more economic benefit than similar students at MPS,” the study found. “By 2035, because of fewer felonies, students who use a voucher in the MPCP will generate a $24 million benefit and because of fewer misdemeanors, students who use a voucher in the MPCP will generate $1.7 million more economic benefit to Wisconsin.”
Potential for Other Cities
Researchers Corey DeAngelis, a distinguished doctoral fellow at the University of Arkansas, and Will Flanders, education research director at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, conducted the study.
Flanders says the benefits experienced in Milwaukee could be improved upon in other areas with fewer regulatory constraints.
“I believe the benefits here are even on the low end of what could be expected in programs that are maybe a little bit more lightly regulated,” Flanders said. “I think other cities could realize similar or larger benefits.”
DeAngelis says the differences among cities means he can’t guarantee the benefits will be the same everywhere, but he says he would expect similar benefits for comparable types of students in other locations.
“Test scores are very mixed across the United States, so it’s hard to tell, if you ask me about a specific place, what the effects would be,” said DeAngelis. “If you’re asking if we can theorize, [yes], other places may receive similar benefits.”
Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.
Corey DeAngelis and Will Flanders, “The Economic Benefit of School Choice in Milwaukee,” Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, December 2016: https://heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/the-economic-benefit-of-school-choice-in-milwaukee