Against the Wind: African Americans and the Schools in Milwaukee, 1963-2002

By Bill Dahlk | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 18
OUTSIDE REFORMERS
TRIUMPHANT

THE MILWAUKEE PARENTAL CHOICE PROGRAM

We have to stop waiting for White people to help our kids. We
must start taking care of our own
.

—Polly Williams in 19941

We told them, if you won’t educate our kids, let us have our own
district. Then they turned that down
, [so] we came up with choice.

—Howard Fuller in 19982


THE VOUCHER DISCUSSION BEGINS

While some new guard reformers were working with the Faison and Peterkin administrations (1987–91) to change MPS from within, others—many of whom had roots in the educational nationalist movement—were promoting African American proprietorship and classroom reform, but they also sought answers outside of MPS. Their first effort had been the North Division District initiative, proposed in 1987 and thwarted (after gaining considerable support) in the state senate in 1988. The next major effort of the outsiders was not only enacted into law in 1990, but thrust Wisconsin and Milwaukee into the national spotlight for educational innovation. That effort was the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, a voucher plan.

The idea of parental choice implemented with a tax-funded voucher had been around since 1955 when free market economist Milton Friedman introduced it in an essay and then spelled it out in his 1962

1 MCJ December 21, 1994.

2 MCJ December 9, 1998.

-511-

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