Do Poor Kids Deserve Lower-Quality Education Than Rich Kids? Evaluating School Privatization Proposals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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Author(s): The Economic Policy Institute

Published: April 24, 2014

Report Intro/Brief:
"During the past year, Wisconsin state legislators debated a series of bills aimed at closing low-performing public schools and replacing them with privately run charter schools. These proposals were particularly targeted at Milwaukee, the state’s largest and poorest school district...

Backers of these reforms are particularly enamored of a new type of charter school represented by the Rocketship chain of schools—a low-budget operation that relies on young and inexperienced teachers rather than more veteran and expensive faculty, that reduces the curriculum to a near-exclusive focus on reading and math, and that replaces teachers with online learning and digital applications for a significant portion of the day. Rocketship proposes that its model—dubbed “blended learning” for its combination of in-person and computerized instruction—can cut costs while raising low-income students’ test scores (Rocketship Education 2011)...

This report evaluates the “blended learning” model of education exemplified by Rocketship and seeks to understand how the “school accountability” legislation debated during the most recent legislative session would likely affect Milwaukee schools. This briefing paper also explains how such proposals might fit within the broader economic agenda of both local and national corporate lobbies. Above all, the report questions why an educational model deemed substandard for more privileged suburban children is being so vigorously promoted—perhaps even forced—on poor children in Milwaukee.

Upon examination, it appears that charter privatization proposals are driven more by financial and ideological grounds than by sound pedagogy..."
-Gordon Lafer