Under Extreme Duress, School Choice Success

Paul Peterson and Chad Noyes
Year of publication: 
New Schools for a New Century: The Redesign of Urban Education
Book Editor/s: 
In Diane Ravitch and Joseph Viteritti, Eds.
Yale University Press

The Wisconsin state legislature enacted in 1995 a large- scale voucher program offering a choice among both religious and secular schools to thousands of Milwaukee children living in low- income families. The program will not come into effect unless the Wisconsin state supreme court rejects a challenge to its constitutionality. Until such time, low income families seeking alternatives to the city's public schools must choose within the confines of a more limited plan set up in 1990. The Milwaukee story is hardly a "best practice" tale that educators love to relate. Its design has too many flaws to recommend it to other communities. But the story does suggest that even the most flawed choice program, when compared to the education offered by many big city school systems, constitutes a step forward.