Mathis found the report builds great speculation with little evidence around the benefits of expanding Wisconsin’s voucher program. The report claims more low-income children will graduate from college if the state’s current cap on voucher enrollment is increased from 4% to 20%.
The report asserts the improved graduation rate will result in greater employment at higher wages, leading to increased personal wealth and a $3.2 billion overall economic impact over 20 years.
The report claims increasing the state’s voucher cap will also lead to more voucher students in K-12 schools who later graduate from college. As a result, the report argues, those college graduates will have higher lifetime earnings and spend more money throughout their lives. Ultimately, according to the report, this process would result in increased state and local tax revenues.
Overall, the report falls well short of backing its projections.
First and foremost, the report does not explain how the “ripple effect” would occur. The links made between each step are casual, weakly explained and lack support.
Also of concern is the report’s data, which are based on a large number of variables and rely on subjective, untrustworthy methods. For example, the claim voucher students would graduate from college with higher average incomes and spend more money over their lifetimes doesn’t account for several factors.For example, the job market may be unable to accommodate higher percentages of graduates entering the workforce, which would result in longer job searches for many.
The proposed increased voucher cap also may not result in an influx of new voucher students, given less than 1% of Wisconsin’s school districts currently reach the 4% voucher cap. This demonstrates little demand for increasing the cap to begin with.
In making its argument, the report relies primarily on a flawed theory that voucher use leads to a 38% increase in graduation rates from four-year colleges. The dollar figure associated with this supposed trend does not add up. The report states lifting the voucher cap would generate a $3.2 billion total economic impact, while figures presented in the report come up $91 million short of meeting that benchmark.
Overall, the report’s arguments are weakly explained and supported due to a lack of evidence and reliance on inaccurate numbers and data.
Read the full review on the Great Lakes Center website or on the National Education Policy Center website.