Boots & Sabers

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1743, 31 Jan 23

The Education Reformation sweeps America

My column for Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:


While the Republican majorities in the Legislature are strong, they lack the votes to overcome Evers’ vetoes without some legislative Democrats shifting their support to children. When Governor Tommy Thompson pioneered the original school choice program in Wisconsin, there was bipartisan support, and bipartisan opposition, for it. In today’s political landscape, it is unlikely that enough Democrats are willing to cross the yawning political divide to support kids.


The benefits of school choice have never been clearer. Dr. Will Flanders from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty has released his fifth annual “Apples to Apples” research study which evaluates student outcomes across government, charter, and choice schools while controlling for student demographics. This statistical methodology controls for the fact that government, charter, and choice schools have dissimilar student demographics to provide a clear comparison of performance. Notably, this year’s study uses public data from the 2021-2022 school year report cards from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and is the first post-pandemic look at school performance.


The results are clear. According to the study, students in the Milwaukee Choice program are significantly more proficient in English Language Arts and math than their peers in government schools. Students in Milwaukee charter schools (still government schools that have been somewhat liberated from the crushing educational bureaucracy) also perform better than their government school peers, but only about half as much as their peers in choice schools.


In the statewide choice program, students in choice school also have better outcomes, but the benefit is not quite as pronounced as it is for kids in Milwaukee.


Tellingly, the data also bears out the well-known, if patently ignored, fact that spending has very little to do with performance in government or choice schools. This tells us two things. First, it tells us that once spending has reached a level that provides an adequate level of support for good teachers and a safe physical space, all of the additional spending is just waste. Wisconsin already funds education at a level where each additional dollar spent does not have any positive impact on student outcomes. That being the case, policymakers must ask themselves why they would force taxpayers to pay more when there is no measurable benefit to kids.


The second thing this data tells us is that it is the government school system that is retarding student performance. Choice schools operate with less money and produce better outcomes even after accounting for demographic differences in the student body. If the system is the problem, then why should taxpayers and parents be forced to continue to lavishly fund a failed system when demonstrably better systems exist?


I am well aware that such arguments rooted in data and genuine passion for educating children do not hold sway in the intellectually sclerotic mind of Governor Evers, but his term will eventually end and we cannot afford to lose another generation of kids to a failed government system.







1743, 31 January 2023


  1. dad29

    intellectually sclerotic mind

    Either you’re assuming facts not in evidence, or you are being FAR too kind to Tony.

  2. dad29

    About 1 minute before I read your entry here, one of my children texted the news that she’s meeting all sorts of people in all sorts of places who are home-schooling. That alternative is also growing rapidly, as you know, and for most of the same reasons.

  3. Mar

    Well, there is actually school choice in Wisconsin.
    But primarily within the public schools.
    But you are right, money doesn’t mean success
    But the main reason for the extra money supposedly need is for administrative costs. Now, you have certified teachers sitting in their offices doing pretty much nothing, and they call teacher coaches.

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