A new study being released in time for National School Choice Week shows the continued expansion of the state’s voucher programs is good for Wisconsin’s economy.
The study, “Ripple Effect,” by Will Flanders of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), points out that more students will complete college thanks to state’s private school voucher programs, leading to higher incomes for those students. The higher incomes will mean more economic growth.
“During National School Choice Week, we celebrate the many educational options that Wisconsinites use for their children,” Flanders said in a statement to RightWisconsin. “This new study shows if policymakers in Madison continue to help expand school choice, it will not only help children, but it can lead to economic gains for the state.”
The new study is being released on the Monday of what promises to be a busy School Choice Week in the state where the modern private school voucher programs began. On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence will be in Madison to join a rally for school choice at the state Capitol. On Thursday, America’s Future Foundation and Conservative Young Professionals of Milwaukee are hosting a discussion with school choice experts Libby Sobic and CJ Szafir of WILL.
The WILL study being released Monday shows an anticipated growth of 20% in the state’s four private school voucher programs over the next two decades. A previous study has shown student in the Milwaukee parental Choice Program are 38% more likely to graduate from college than their traditional public school peers. Given the projected growth, this means an average of nearly 400 more students per year graduating from college over the next two decades, or a total of 9044 students over 20 years.
A more modest model assumes only 10% growth in school choice in 20 years. That figure comes from the gradual expansion by 1% each year of the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program. The 10% growth would mean 5841 more college graduates over 20 years.
The average college graduate’s weekly earnings are 64% higher than those of high school graduates. “A 20% increase in voucher enrollment would lead to about $3.2 billion in increased consumer spending plus local and state taxes,” the study says. “The 10% model predicts more than $2 billion in these economic benefits.”
Individual cities would benefit from school choice expansion, too. Milwaukee would see nearly $280 million in economic benefit over 20 years.
“LaCrosse could see benefits of about $24 million. Benefits to Appleton are estimated at up to $60 million,” the study say. “Green Bay and Madison could see benefits of more than $75 to $100 million respectively.”
To reach the 20% increase in voucher program enrollment, the study says that it would,”require removing some of the barriers to entry currently in place.”
“For instance, students in private schools are only able to enter the statewide program at certain grade levels,” the studies authors say.
The study recommends eliminating grade-level entry points and raising the income limits for the voucher school choice programs.
“Expanding school choice in Wisconsin is not a given. Policymakers face a choice,” Flanders wrote in the conclusion. “Are they prepared to step up and do what is right for Wisconsin students, or are they going to let school choice opponents continue to deny the evidence and limit this program?”