Milwaukee's voucher program cost Wisconsin taxpayers almost $28 million extra in the last two years due to a provision allowing schools to receive payments significantly higher than tuition.
In Cleveland, the only city with a voucher program similar to Milwaukee's, the voucher payments are tied to the tuition charged private-paying students. In Milwaukee, the law allows significantly higher payments based on pupil costs.
A recent report by People for the American Way found that the voucher overpayments in Milwaukee amounted to a total of nearly $28 million for the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 school years.
In all, more than 75 percent of the 91 private and religious schools participating in those years received payments exceeding their tuition.
Tuition at private schools rarely covers expenses. In religious schools, tuition traditionally has been subsidized by the parish or the sponsoring organization. In essence, the Wisconsin law allows the voucher payments to provide that subsidy.
For example, Urban Day School, a non-religious school, charged a tuition of $1,000 for the 1999-2000 school year, yet received voucher payments from the state of $5,080 per student. The report notes that these overpayments accounted for fully 46 percent of the total cost of the voucher program.
The report, "A Painful Price: How the Milwaukee Voucher Surcharge Undercuts Wisconsin's Education Priorities," was released Feb. 14. A copy can be obtained at: www.pfaw.org/issues/education/reports/MilwaukeePainfulPrice.pdf.