MPS’ share of tax levy drops again, but voucher tax growth drives overall levy up

Overall levy up 0.9% as voucher tax grows 8%

MILWAUKEE – Milwaukee Public Schools’ share of the city tax levy dropped for the second year in a row, while growth in the voucher tax tied to the Milwaukee Parental Choice program drove the city’s overall schools levy up 0.9%.

The MPS share of the tax levy dropped 0.5% to $247 million; the vouchers’ share grew 8% to $53.6 million. As a result, the overall school tax levy in the city of Milwaukee grew by 0.9% to $300.6 million. State law compels the Milwaukee Public Schools Board of School Directors to levy a tax for both MPS and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which enrolls students in private schools regardless of whether students ever attended MPS. (In its most recent report on Milwaukee school choice/vouchers, the independent Public Policy Forum noted that ‘much of the growth’ in the program comes from families who were paying tuition to private schools now using vouchers to cover the cost).

The voucher spending growth comes a week after new figures from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction showed that students in MPS schools outperformed their voucher-school counterparts under new higher state standards, though both groups of schools have more work to do to improve student achievement. MPS students, as a whole, outperformed voucher by more than four percentage points in reading and roughly eight percentage points in math.

Milwaukee Public Schools is Wisconsin’s largest school district, serving nearly 80,000 students in more than 160 schools across the city. U.S. News and World Report named MPS’ Rufus King International School and Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School the two best high schools in the state and among the 200 best in the country in 2012. In the past year, Milwaukee Public Schools posted a growing graduation rate 17 points higher than the rate for 2000.