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Funding Impermanance: Quantifying the Public Funds Sent to Closed Schools in the Nation’s First Urban School Voucher Program

Author: MICHAEL R. FORD
Published in PAQ, Vol. 40 No. 4

Since the 1990-1991 school year the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) has provided vouchers to tens of thousands of mostly low-income Milwaukee children attending private schools at public expense. The Milwaukee voucher experience, as a free-market government reform reliant on the use of non-government service providers, sits firmly in the new public management framework. This analysis uses fiscal and enrollment data to quantify the amount of public money sent to the 128 voucher schools that exited the MPCP. The author finds that about 12% of the total program expenditure was on closed schools between 1991 and 2013. The authors conclude that policymakers should consider the likelihood of substantial investment in failed institutions when considering the implementation of new public management reforms.

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