The Fiscal Impact of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, 2009 Update

Suzannah Herrmann, Ph.D.

This report, issued by the University of Arkansas' School Choice Demonstration Project (see here), examines the taxpayer burden of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) (see here). A decade older and nearly three times the 7,000 enrolled (in 2007-08) in Ohio's EdChoice Program, the Milwaukee program offers families opportunities to use vouchers across the greater Milwaukee area to send their children to private schools. Professor Costrell estimates that the Milwaukee voucher program saved taxpayers as much as $31.9 million in 2008, which was up from $24.6 million in 2007. The program creates taxpayer savings because it is less expensive to fund a voucher student ($6,501 per pupil in 2007 and $6,607 per pupil in 2008) than a student in a traditional Milwaukee public school ($8,833 per pupil in 2007 and $9,462 per pupil in 2008). Savings increased between 2007 and 2008 because of growing enrollments in the MPCP as well as "a widening gap between per pupil public revenues allocated to the Milwaukee public schools and the MPCP." Still, not all taxpayers in the metropolitan area receive the same benefits. Milwaukee property taxpayers are negatively affected, while Wisconsin property taxpayers outside of Milwaukee reap benefits because of an idiosyncratic funding formula (see here). Regardless, the report offers a solid case that taxpayers receive a net savings, while offering students and families choices to go to private schools. See here for the report.