Milwaukee's New Schools Approval Board, created after intense legislative negotiations earlier this summer, has released its first set of decisions: three approvals, sixteen denials. That would make it among the most rigorous and quality-conscious charter school authorizers in the country, except it doesn't work in the charter sector. These were to be private schools, aiming to participate in Brew City's voucher program. The board is part of the Howard Fuller-led Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University. It was Fuller, in fact, who brokered a deal this spring that ramped up accountability for participating schools in reaction to concerns over low quality. Like a good charter authorizer, the board is looking not just at the financial viability of the new schools, but sound pedagogical practices, too. Institute assistant director Robert Pavlik explains, "My hope is that as anyone goes forward to open a school, they would recognize what an honor and privilege it is" to do so. Not only is this a promising development for Milwaukee, it also demonstrates the blurring of lines between public and private, charter and voucher. Which is only going to make it harder for people like Arne Duncan to explain why they support one but not the other.
"Just 3 new voucher schools approved," by Alan J. Borsuk, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, July 20, 2009