Sneaky Anti-School Choice Empire Strikes Back at Milwaukee

When it comes to school choice, have no fear: if given a chance, the Empire will strike back. Most recently they have honed their targets on Milwaukee, the granddaddy of modern voucher programs. The threat looms large.

As the editors of the Wall Street Journal explain, Wisconsin lawmakers have hit participating private schools with a double whammy: funding cuts (they already receive less than half as much per student as do traditional public schools) and new bureaucratic mandates. The best news that can be said, at least according to the Education Gadfly, is that the regulations could have been worse.

Those nasty Wisconsin lawmakers must have figured that if it’s too risky to try to cut back vouchers outright, they might as well play around with the money and the rules. Very sneaky of them.

Meanwhile, as a similar National Review editorial points out, the Obama administration is still spinning in circles over the voucher issue:

At the National Press Club last week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that he opposed school choice: “Let me explain why. Vouchers usually serve 1 to 2 percent of the children in a community. . . . But I don’t want to save 1 or 2 percent of children and let 98, 99 percent down.” It was a bizarre statement: Why not simply let more than 1 or 2 percent enjoy the benefits of school choice? In Milwaukee, they actually do. It’s the largest urban school-choice program in the country, dwarfing the size of the one in Washington, D.C., whose de-funding by congressional Democrats has drawn so much criticism. Roughly one in five of Milwaukee’s school-age children receive vouchers. All of them must fall below an income threshold. Researchers say that the program is beginning to show systemic effects. In other words, it doesn’t merely help its participants. It also gives a lift to non-voucher students because the pressure of competition has forced public schools to improve.

I don’t think I could say it any better. Memo to the anti-school choice Empire: Drop your bizarre rhetoric and sneaky tactics, and give the poor kids in Milwaukee (not to mention Washington DC and a thousand other places) a chance. Here’s believing they won’t have as much success as Darth Vader and company.