Another WI voucher school closes, calls for accountability increase


by Colleen Flaherty

Another voucher school in the Milwaukee area is closing its doors after failing to meet state requirements. Travis Technology High Schools will no longer receive taxpayer money, and about 200 teenagers will have to find different schools to attend when winter break ends.

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This is a common story for the state’s voucher program, according to a recent study by the Wisconsin State Journal. Wisconsin has spent $139 million on school vouchers to private schools that were eventually disqualified from the state’s program. Eleven schools participating in the program were removed within a year of opening due to poor educational standards, which costs taxpayers $4.1 million.

As Gov. Scott Walker proposes to expand the program by an estimated $200 million annually, the voucher program needs to be looked at for its lack of accountability standards and transparency, said Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan who requested a review by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

“Every child in Wisconsin and across the United States deserves the right to a high-quality education,” said Pocan. “Before Governor Walker tries to expand the state’s voucher program, Wisconsin taxpayers deserve to know more about the widespread reports of discrimination against students with disabilities and the insufficient academic accountability of choice schools.”

The voucher program has a poor track record when it comes to equity concerning students with special needs. Of the approximately 21,000 students who attend private school using state-subsidized vouchers, only 1.6 percent are identified as having special education plans. By comparison, nearly 20 percent of the approximately 81,000 students enrolled in the Milwaukee Public Schools have special education plans in place.


“We owe it to every student to ensure publicly funded schools – including voucher schools – provide high-quality education and protect the rights of students with disabilities,” said Pocan.

The recently shut voucher school is one of two in Milwaukee run by Ceria M. Travis Academy Inc. CEO Dorothy Travis Moore heads with operation with her daughter, Executive Director Wilnekia Brinson, who both receive six-figure compensation packages despite the school lacking textbooks and other adequate classroom materials.

Funding these institutions that lack accountability and equity with taxpayer money don’t only hurt students who attend these schools, according to Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association. These programs are draining resources from public schools.

“Public schools are the only institutions with the capacity, commitment and legal obligation to support all students. That’s the core reason we have public education. We serve all,” said Peterson. “Who are these private schools serving?”

Reader Comments

  1. Doesn’t our National Constitution proclaim “Separation of Church and State”? I don’t think the voucher program is constitutional.

    1. Here’s how the far right gets around that: If parents wish their child/children [who are attending these charter/voucher schools] not be a part of the religious classes, activities, etc., then parents can choose to opt out of those activities. You bring up a great issue; as a retired teacher with 36 years of experience, I and many other colleagues have wondered this for years…and, the reason provided above is what the politicians have used. I really don’t understand why there is not a revolution in this country.

    2. It is legal if the Republicans, who, in my opinion, are trying to do away with the middle class and public education, are in power. Ask Tony Bennett, former Sec. of Education in Indiana. IF Charter Schools, like Crystal House in Indy,don’t have high enough scores he just changes the grading system to make them higher for charter schools. It is not hard to do for him. He broke the public’s trust and even though caught red handed, he would deny it first and then refuse to talk about it later. In the eyes of the administration, his actions were not a crime, just getting caught was the wrong doing, in my opinion.

  2. Well, isn’t this just dandy, Mr. Governor. Another one of your brainchild ideas that you are jamming down our throats. I am so done with your inability to rationally reason out this whole voucher-school idea. Just keep jammin your ideas down the throats of the 48% who didn’t vote for you. Shame on you…you are the Caucasian version of our Prez. Most disheartening.

  3. In Indiana the Republican state administration strongly supports vouchers. They want everyone to believe that they do this because they are strong education advocates. But, in the opinion of many, the administration is trying to eliminate the state teachers union. Religious voucher schools get to choose who they accept and they shy away from weak students calling them “not a good fit” unless they are good athletes. I heard a Supt. once say, “In the Spirit of Jesus Christ, we serve who ever comes to our door and until the private, and religious schools can say that, they need to keep their mouths shut about how good their schools are!!” Outstanding teachers are leaving the field in greater numbers every year. Maybe these politicians will go into the classroom and show everyone how to teach without proper funding and governmental support. And you will know when that happens when you open the morning paper and the headlines read, “HELL FROZE OVER!!”

  4. Vouchers and charter schools are a drain on the public. The state legislatures all over the country are overpopulated with those who believe that such schools are still public schools. They are not. Public schools take everyone’s child; charter schools are supposed to but they seldom provide any sort of adequate special education. In our area, one charter school psychologist serves schools in five counties. Tell me how many IEP’s that person can even get to in a midwest winter much less do the testing and set in place the intervention needed? So..where doe those kids end up? Hmm. Some charters don’t even use school buses. Then who goes to those schools? Hmm. Kids who have someone to drive them there.
    The average citizen does not know that charter schools keep their use of tax dollars guarded; apparently they are not required to list all the salaries and expenditures their school has the way the public schools must. As the number of public school children decreases, the public school must fill the rooms to the brim, cutting teachers and courses to make their budget. They do not make a profit; in fact they are not supposed to make a profit. Tell that to the corporations who are not even based in the states whose tax dollars are lining their pockets.
    McSchools are the new way to wealth. They are certainly not the way to become a world leader in education. After all, a really well-educated population would be no doubt question the whole idea of education as an industry, like Ramen noodles or Sony tvs.

  5. Vouchers and charter schools are both designed to grab public money and run…and often to other states where their headquarters are located. Parents who have enough difficulty managing two jobs and kids’ schooling buy into the belief that somehow their child will be better off in what is viewed as a private public school. Separating their kids from the problems they perceive exist in public schools, these folks think they are doing the right thing. Meanwhile, the public schools get less funding, the per-pupil rate is stretched as the class size rises, and since kids with any real learning issues stay in public schools for the special ed they need, the scores per school are skewed. Charter schools are truly a bad idea; sending public tax dollars to corporations has to mean someone makes a profit. The open books of the real public schools are published in the local press; the charters share almost nothing about where the money goes. (especially when it leaves the state.)
    Education in general is often criticized for today’s citizens’ ignorance of the bill of rights, the constitution and what was called civics years ago. Surprise. The average American knows so little about the workings of their own local government and the funding of its schools that it should come as no surprise that so few of them see what vouchers and charters are doing as they make investors happy with our tax dollars… dollars that should be going to real public schools…not corporations, not online schools, but schools that reflect the American population as a whole. How else do we teach real democracy unless we live it in school?

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