Sunday, August 14, 2005

School Choice: The Milwaukee Plan (Latest Update)

The number of schools participating in the city's voucher program could jump by close to 20 this fall. But at the same time, the focus of one local group that supports vouchers will shift from opening new schools to strengthening existing ones: (use bugmenot email: no[at]way[dot]com)
The state's Department of Public Instruction said on Friday that between 17 and 20 new schools could join the program this fall. Final approval is pending for three schools until the department receives word from the city that the schools have occupancy permits for their buildings. That number is down significantly from the 50 or so that applied in the winter, but is larger than the number of new schools that joined last fall.

"Personally, I wonder whether there are enough children that are going to these schools, or they will be competing for students," said Tony Evers, the deputy state superintendent. He said some of the 54 schools that applied in the winter voluntarily decided not to open, while others did not meet the stiffer administrative and financial requirements in place since last year. Because enrollment in the program is approaching the state-imposed cap of about 14,800 students, enrollment of new students will essentially stop in mid-September, according to Evers, although no long-term solution to the cap issue has been worked out.

The new schools opening include Northside High School, whose founder is Ricardo Brooks. Brooks was an administrator at Academic Solutions Center for Learning, a school that closed this winter after a large fight broke out on campus. No one answered the phone at the number listed for Brooks and Northside. The address is listed at 2704 N. 50th St.

Milwaukee Lutheran High School, a long-established school, will also join the voucher program.

The only school from last year that will not open again is Learning Enterprise, as far as state officials know. Two other programs associated with the high school closed this winter after the founder of the schools, Kathy Harrell-Patterson, died, and it became clear in subsequent weeks the school was short of cash.
While the number of new schools joining the program continues to climb, officials at Marquette University's Institute for the Transformation of Learning have backed away from helping to start new schools. In the past, the institute has acted as an incubator for charter and voucher schools hoping to open.

When a private school is so out-of-control that it actually has to close, as was the case with Academic Solutions Center for Learning, then things really are awful
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