Private Voucher Schools Increase Milwaukee’s Notorious Segregation

By Robert Miranda and Chris Johnson, KINGFISHmke

October 7, 2015

Twenty-five years ago, around the time Milwaukee’s parental school choice program started, it was forecasted and predicted by genuine Black civil rights leaders in Milwaukee that the private voucher schools program promoted by former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson and his loyal Black cohorts in Milwaukee, was the start of a new method to segregate Black children from interacting with the children of other ethnic backgrounds.

In the early 1990s, Howard Fuller and the late Annette Polly Williams stood against that notion and convinced many of Milwaukee’s established Black leadership that private voucher choice schools was a way to defeat the teachers’ union, who they claimed was a major obstacle in the education of Black children. To change this, Fuller and Williams advocated for private voucher schools to be offered exclusively to parents in the Black community fed up with Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).

Initially, the private voucher school program was offered to black parents opting out of MPS, but when Gov. Scott Walker opened up the private voucher school program to parents outside of Milwaukee’s inner city community to parents living in affluent communities several years later, Williams turned away from the voucher program, charging it will lead to a broader segregation of blacks into inferior schools. The truth seeped out of William’s mouth after she collected tens of thousands of dollars in speaking fees for promoting the privatization of school funding.

21st Century Segregation

Over two decades of private voucher schools growth in Milwaukee reveals that most of the schools participating in the program are either all or mostly black, or are all or mostly Hispanic. Clearly, what the private voucher school program has done is to segregate the Black and Hispanic student population.

These voucher school programs provide public funding for students to attend private schools. Since the start of the modern private school choice “movement,” there are currently over 26,800 participating students (2014–15) in 111 participating schools (2014–15) in Milwaukee.

Most existing voucher school programs in Milwaukee are small-scale and target low-income students. Most if not all of these schools are highly segregated and, because they are private voucher schools, nothing can be done to stop the continued segregation of education in Milwaukee.

School choice promoters such as Howard Fuller and cohorts say that vouchers will spur competition between public and private campuses, make schools more responsive to families and students, increase student achievement and improve effectiveness of all schools, which have proven not to be true. See for yourself here.

While the intent to improve education is honorable, the results of segregating schools defeat the purpose of their creation. 

The heavily supported teachers union in the Milwaukee south-side state 8th Assembly District represented by Democrat JoCasta Zamrippa, for example, has the highest concentration of Hispanics in Wisconsin. It is also experiencing an explosion of private voucher schools. 

This district already boasts the largest private voucher school program in the nation (St. Anthony’s). The district currently is about to host a second private voucher school of comparable size proposed by a Hispanic multi-millionaire.  The prospect of this new voucher school potentially makes this district home to two of America’s largest voucher school programs.

Why is the 8th Assembly experiencing this explosion of private voucher schools? Leaders in the Hispanic community argue that private voucher schools are being formed to provide Hispanic children with an alternative to MPS; but the underbelly of the truth is that Hispanic parents do not want their children to attend MPS because of the large number of Black students. 

But this no secret! It should not be a shock either because it is a widely-accepted fact among many Hispanic leaders and parents. Indeed, it’s even an accepted fact by black and white private voucher schools advocates, such as Howard Fuller and Fuller-friendly former Milwaukee Teacher Educator Association President Bob Peterson and his partner author Barbara Miner. who would never challenge Fuller directly because they are close colleagues and fear of reprisal from the black community. 

The civil rights movement was a hard-fought effort to end segregation in America. Many civil rights leaders today carry scars of those violent battles fought on our city streets to end segregation. Unfortunately, the forces that advocate for an apartheid society have found a way to appease leaders from fighting against this new method of segregation using privatization as the means to that end, and voucher school money to pay for their silence. 

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on October 06, 2015

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