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DECEMBER 12, 2023

Report's Claims of Voucher Success Undermined by Flawed Methodology and Limited Research Basis

An NEPC Review funded by the Great Lakes Center

Key Takeaway: Wisconsin families and policymakers deserve a more accurate, less biased assessment of the state voucher program.

GRAND RAPIDS, MI (December 12, 2023) - A recent report from School Choice Wisconsin claims that Wisconsin's voucher programs are highly "productive," achieving better academic outcomes at lower costs than public schools. A closer examination, however, calls into question the validity of these assertions.

Stephen Kotok of St. John's University reviewed The Cost-Effectiveness of Wisconsin's Private School Choice Programs, and identified substantial methodological shortcomings that undermine its conclusions, including reliance on biased comparisons and limited financial accounting.

While comparing the cost and academic performance of voucher recipients in Wisconsin to public school students, the report overlooks important considerations regarding true school funding costs, and fails to assess the voucher program against an appropriate comparison group of students. The funding calculation fails to account for special needs students, additional school fees, and state oversight expenses. The report also ignores recent studies examining the effectiveness of voucher programs in other states and showing starkly negative outcomes for the voucher recipients.

Professor Kotok explains that the Wisconsin-specific claims are undermined by the reality that students are not randomly assigned to vouchers or admitted through a lottery, so it is very problematic to compare students and their academic results without controlling for other variables. He agrees that while voucher costs and their impact are important policy questions, this report does not contribute to answering those questions.

Find the review, by Stephen Kotok, at:

Find The Cost-Effectiveness of Wisconsin's Private School Choice Programs, published by School Choice Wisconsin, at:

NEPC Reviews ( provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high-quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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Michelle Renée Valladares
(720) 505-1958

Stephen Kotok
(718) 990-2654