Wisconsin: School choice: Nearly $500 million in benefits

In 2014, facing high demand from parents, St. Marcus Lutheran School decided to expand by adding a second school. As a private K-8 school in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, St. Marcus alumni graduate from high school at rates averaging around 90%, even though more than 90% of its students are from low-income families.

St. Marcus made an offer to the City of Milwaukee about purchasing former Lee Elementary, an empty Milwaukee Public Schools building, for $880,000. But the city said no unless St. Marcus paid an additional $1.3 million because, in the city’s opinion, Milwaukee taxpayers would be hurt by the expansion of St. Marcus and the voucher program. The exorbitant cost helped end the negotiations.

The city’s analysis and tactics are not new. The problem is that city officials do not take into account the enormous positive impact a high performing school can have on the city and state. If there are more children at St. Marcus, then there are more children who will graduate from high school. These graduates are more likely to be employed and stay out of prison, and less likely to depend on welfare and other government services.

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