Tony Evers, the state superintendent of public instruction, has been making waves by going on the offensive against proposals to expand the use of private school vouchers in Wisconsin. In addition to what has been said in news stories such as this one in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, I’d offer three thoughts that struck me as I read the lengthy memo Evers offered to members of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance this week.
One: Legally and politically, this is almost surely idle thinking, but what if the private schools that are in Milwaukee’s voucher program had to face the same kind of consequences for getting weak results that charter schools and, of late, conventional public schools face?
Charter schools, which are independently operated, publicly funded schools, are generally given five-year contracts by a government body. (In Milwaukee, charter contracts are granted by the School Board, city government, or the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.) It is not unusual for a charter school to be closed if it is not getting good results at the end of five years, or sometimes sooner.
In the conventional Milwaukee Public Schools system, school closings are becoming common. Tightening finances and declining enrollments are key reasons, but getting bad results is also a factor. And a list of schools, including several major high schools, are under orders, based on federal policies, to take steps such as overhauling their programs and staffs and getting new principals because of low student success.