The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice

Advancing Milton and Rose D. Friedman's Vision of School Choice for All Children

Wisconsin - Milwaukee Parental Choice Program

Enacted 1990 • Launched 1990 • Voucher

Milwaukee families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines qualify to receive vouchers. Once a student receives a voucher, that student is able to keep it, regardless of his or her family’s future income. Voucher students are allowed to attend any participating private school in the state.

Latest Stats (2013-14)

  • Students participating: 24,915
  • Schools participating: 110
  • Average voucher value: $6,442

Program Details

Student Funding
In 2013-14, vouchers are worth the lesser of the following for each participating student: $6,442 or the school’s operating and debt service cost per pupil. In 2014-15, the maximum voucher amount will be $7,210 for grades K-8 and $7,856 for grades 9-12. Beginning in 2015-16, maximum voucher payments increase by a percentage equal to the percentage increase in general school aid to Wisconsin public schools. The voucher may not exceed the private school’s per-student costs, including operating expenses and debt service. Parents of students in grades 9-12 that have an income greater than 220 percent of the federal poverty level ($51,810 for a family of four in 2013-14) may be charged additional tuition above the voucher amount.

Student Eligibility
Students who live in Milwaukee and whose family income does not exceed 300 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible ($70,650 for a family of four in 2013-14); moreover, a family’s income limit increases by $7,000 if the student’s parents/legal guardians are married. Students who are continuing the program from previous years and those who were on a school’s waiting list in the prior year because the school did not have space available do not need to demonstrate income eligibility.

Legal Developments
In June 2011, the ACLU filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, alleging that the Milwaukee voucher program violates federal laws prohibiting discrimination against students with disabilities. In 1998, the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that the Milwaukee voucher program does not violate either the state’s Compelled Support Clause or Blaine Amendment. The court also affirmed the conclusions of Davis (1992), an earlier uniformity challenge to the school choice program. Jackson v. Benson, 218 Wis. 2d 835, 578 N.W.2d 602 (1998), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 967 (1998).

Rules & Regulations
• Income Limit: 300 percent x poverty
• Prior Year Public School Requirement: None
• Geographic Limit: District (Milwaukee)
• Enrollment Cap: None
• Voucher Cap: $6,442
• Testing Mandates: Nationally recognized norm-referenced tests

Governing Statutes
Wis. Stat. § 119.23

Friedman Contact
Robbie Rhinesmith | robbie@edchoice.org

Related Research

6/5/2012 The Greenfield School Revolution and School Choice
4/2/2009 The High Cost of Wisconsin’s Dropout Rate
2/5/2008 Grading School Choice: Evaluating School Choice Programs by the Friedman Gold Standard
8/1/2006 Segregation Levels in Milwaukee Public Schools and the Milwaukee Voucher Program
10/1/2005 Using School Choice: Analyzing How Parents Access Educational Freedom
1/1/2003 Grading Vouchers: Ranking America’s School Choice Programs

Related News

3/12/2014 National Review Online | Choosing to Learn
1/23/2014 U.S. voucher, school choice enrollment reaches record high
9/9/2013 Bloomberg | Obama’s Misguided War Against School Choice
8/15/2013 Sharing your story in “The ABCs” can be as easy as one, two, three
7/1/2013 Wisconsin governor signs budget with statewide school voucher expansion
6/21/2013 School vouchers going statewide in Wisconsin
1/23/2013 “The ABCs of School Choice,” 2013 Edition, Now Available
6/5/2012 Limited Choice Doesn’t Support New School Models, Study Finds
4/12/2012 Wall Street Journal | School Vouchers Gain Ground
4/6/2012 AP | School Vouchers Spark Growing Court Fights in US
9/1/2011 Chicago Tribune | Idolizing Indiana
8/27/2011 Enlow | Vouchers Help Create a Supporting System at Home, Aiding Students
8/10/2011 DiPerna | Parents Snatching Up Vouchers and K-12 Scholarships for New School Year
8/3/2011 EducationNext | No Matter How You Ask the Question
7/5/2011 Wall Street Journal | The Year of School Choice
6/26/2011 Voucher Victory in Wisconsin
6/26/2011 Statehouse News Online | Crowd Cheers as Walker Signs $66-Billion Budget into Law
5/6/2011 NPR | School Voucher Debate Heats Back Up
4/19/2011 USA Today | Why School Vouchers are Worth a Shot
3/9/2011 Enlow | Choice Plan Puts Kids First

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