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'Bait and Switch'

By Barbara Miner

Ever since vouchers began in Milwaukee in 1990, voucher advocates belittled the Milwaukee Public Schools, promised that vouchers were the key to improved educational opportunity, and derailed other serious reform efforts. In the process, vouchers used almost $750 million in taxpayer money, with minimal accountability in how those dollars were spent. This year, the voucher program includes roughly 125 private schools and approximately 20,000 students, each receiving $6,607 in tax dollars. While there are considered to be a number of higher-performing voucher schools, just as there are in the public schools, little is known about what happens at a number of voucher schools?even on such basics as students' racial breakdown. The lack of accountability has become such a public policy embarrassment that even some voucher supporters are talking about accountability.

The problem, however, is that voucher supporters may be offering a "bait and switch."

The bait? Nominally accepting accountability. The switch? Sidestepping true accountability and transparency.

If the bait and switch succeeds, it will likely have repercussions beyond Milwaukee, bolstering the Fordham Foundation's position that a "sliding scale" of accountability is the way forward for the voucher movement.

Three issues are at the heart of accountability in Milwaukee:

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