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Wisconsin Vouchers, Cyber Charters Come Under Scrutiny

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In Wisconsin, school choice advocates are facing criticism about the state's newly expanded voucher program as well as the academic performance of cyber charters in that state.

According to the Associated Press, only 21 percent of students receiving vouchers under the state's expanded program attended public school last year. Nearly three-quarters of those receiving vouchers (73 percent) attended a private school, 3 percent did not attend school, and 2.4 percent were homeschooled, says the article.

Vouchers are public funds that are doled out to families who meet certain requirements that are to be used for private school education.

While proponents of voucher programs maintain that the tuition grants provide students with more choice and give low-income students and families access to better schools, critics say that vouchers essentially provide a rebate for families who would be sending their children to private schools anyway—a claim bolstered by these recently released figures.

In addition, according to an article in the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, half of the virtual charter schools that received a rating in the state report card did not meet expectations, either because of low graduation or test participation rates, or because of high dropout rates.

Although the state has 28 cyber charter schools, only eight schools serving a total of 4,700 students were included in the state report card. Of those eight, only four met or exceeded expectations on the state report card.

Virtual education advocates contend that the comparison is misleading because virtual charter schools tend to serve students who have dropped out of or underperformed in other education environments. But critics of the schools are calling for more scrutiny of the sector.

The data comes at a time when virtual charter school enrollment is on the rise. Although 2013 numbers are not in yet, the sector grew 1,700 students statewide between 2011 and 2012, says the article.

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