What Will Vouchers Bring?

Published November 1, 2000

The future under vouchers: A divided society, driven by self-interest. Racial segregation. Religious separatism. Ethnic divisiveness. Rich versus poor. Discrimination in enrollment. Children left behind. Tuition rip-offs. Cheating. Fraud.

That’s the disturbing vision of the future with school vouchers, as seen by many opponents of school choice.

But, as former Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Howard Fuller often points out, school choice in America is “neither new nor untested.” Since Milwaukee’s modern school voucher movement already is 10 years old, it can provide a real-world example of the future that vouchers could bring to other cities across the nation.

Rather than bring divisiveness and separation, vouchers in Milwaukee appear to have had just the opposite effect: quieting discord in troubled neighborhoods and enabling different social, political, and religious groups to work together on the common goal of creating better schools for their children and their own neighborhoods.

During the period from 1993 to 1997, statistics for the central city area showed improved economic activity, according to a January 1999 study from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee conducted by John Pawasarat, director of the University’s Employment and Training Institute. The study shows that most families in the central city are not on welfare but are working and increasing their earnings ahead of inflation. In addition, housing values are up, violent crime is down, and there are many more small businesses.

Empowering parents with school vouchers appears to bring more harmony to a community, not less.