When the state started handing out vouchers in Milwaukee 23 years ago, supporters promised it would boost the achievement of poor students. It hasn't. Test scores show students getting vouchers to attend private schools are doing no better than public school students and, by some measures, are actually doing worse.
Voucher backers also promised the program would breed innovation and system change by creating competition in the education system. That hasn’t happened either. The latest statewide school report cards show Milwaukee schools are alone in failing to meet expectations.
When a government program doesn't work, it should end. Yet after failing to deliver on its promises for 23 years, lawmakers did not debate whether or not to stop this failed experiment. They expanded it statewide.
Why does the voucher program still have so much wind in its sails despite its inability to produce results?
There are at least 97 million reasons. Over the last 10 years, pro-voucher interests have poured $97 million into Wisconsin elections. Anti-voucher forces spent $10.5 million in the same period of time trying to influence those state elections.
Steve Nass says opposition to vouchers is driven by money and power. Support for vouchers is driven by that same kind of money and power – times nine.