Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist has said he hopes to contract charters with an additional 25 to 30 schools next year, with a combined enrollment of about 4,000 students. The voucher schools, meanwhile, can enroll up to 15,000 voucher students. The financial impact of such developments on the Milwaukee public schools is unclear, but it could mean an annual loss of $75 million or more.
Supporters of vouchers have argued that MPS is losing money because it no longer has to educate the students in the voucher schools. But the IWF study points out that, due to extremely complicated funding formulas set by the state, state aid is not calculated on an exact per pupil amount but rather involves factors such as the ratio between the available tax base per pupil and the state's guarantee of a certain level of support.
The bottom line is this: MPS loses $4,950 for each voucher student. While it receives some money back from the state because some of the voucher students are included in the Milwaukee district membership count used to determine state aid, the amount received back for each voucher student counted is only $1,370.
The IWF study also points out that the voucher program is siphoning money from MPS even though Milwaukee has one of the lowest per pupil spending in the area, yet far and above the highest level of low-income students. Milwaukee spends $7,706 per pupil, and 71% of its students are low income. In the suburb of Whitefish Bay, in contrast, there are no low-income students, and the per pupil spending is $9,101. In the Nicolet High School district, per pupil spending is $12,939, and there are 7.2% low-income students.
Vol. 13, No. 2