School Vouchers:

Publicly Funded Programs in Cleveland and Milwaukee

GAO-01-914: Published: Aug 31, 2001. Publicly Released: Oct 1, 2001.

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This report reviews the Cleveland and Milwaukee school voucher programs, which provide money for low-income families to send their children to private schools. Both programs require participating private schools to be located within the city or the city's school district and to adhere to state standards for private schools, such as those covering health and safety. In both Cleveland and Milwaukee, voucher students were more likely than public school students to come from poorer families that were headed by a single parent. Some information about the racial and ethnic composition of Cleveland's and Milwaukee's public school and voucher students is available, but it is unclear whether the composition changed as a result of the voucher programs. Ohio and Wisconsin use different methods to provide state funds for the voucher programs and spend less on voucher students than on public school students. The Cleveland voucher program is funded with Disadvantaged Pupil Impact Aid funds up to a limit set by the Ohio Legislature. Wisconsin funds the Milwaukee voucher program with general state aid funds on the basis of number of students participating in the program in a given year. The contracted evaluations of voucher students' academic achievement in Cleveland and Milwaukee found little or no difference in voucher and public school students' performance, but other studies found that voucher students did better in some of the subject areas tested.

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