Research News

UW-Madison's Bruecker analyzes fiscal effects of Wisconsin's Parental Choice Program

October 11, 2017
UW-Madison's Ellie Bruecker authored a policy memo analyzing the fiscal effects of Wisconsin's expanded statewide Parental Choice Program, describing how the voucher program alters the relative share of public education spending borne by the state and by local districts.

Bruecker is a Ph.D. student with the School of Education's Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

Ellie Bruecker
In 2013, Wisconsin’s legislature added a statewide voucher program to its longstanding Milwaukee voucher program and a newly enacted voucher program in Racine. The state expanded the statewide program in 2015 and changed the funding mechanism of the program so that its cost was borne by local school districts. The program is already distributing tens of millions of dollars to pay private school tuition across the state and, because of Wisconsin’s school funding system, its fiscal impact is not evenly distributed across Wisconsin’s public schools.

Bruecker's analysis finds that while the fiscal effects of the program on public school districts are still relatively small, they are likely to grow over time. She notes that the majority of students currently eligible to participate in the program live within 15 miles of a voucher school and that as participation grows even school districts with low participation rates could lose a substantial portion of their state aid. Small rural districts, as well as urban districts such as Green Bay, would be negatively affected.

Bruecker also points out that as the program expands, unless Wisconsin increases the amount of per-pupil funding provided by the state, the result of the voucher program expansion will be a net reduction in the amount of state financial support for each student.

As more states enact or expand their voucher programs, the case of Wisconsin illustrates how one-size-fits-all statewide programs have the potential to exacerbate funding disparities in the public system.

Find Bruecker's report, "Assessing the Fiscal Impact of Wisconsin's Statewide Voucher Program," on the web at: