Ideas to Impact Blog

On Point with Rick Graber: Re-energizing K-12 Educational Choice


Milwaukee has gained significant ground for school choice in the past 30 years, and research attests to its success. Students enrolling in a private high school through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) are 4-7% more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in a four-year college, and continue with college. The values these students learn in choice schools have an impact for the rest of their lives: among 25–28 year old adults, former MPCP students committed 53% fewer drug crimes and 86% fewer property crimes than their public school peers. Despite this track record, there are new threats to education reform. Rick Graber, President of The Bradley Foundation, is a strong voice for defending and expanding school choice and providing innovative leadership in this arena. He shares several key insights on how to best provide quality education for all families in response to our questions below.  

Why is now the time to strengthen our commitment to school choice?

Study after study has shown that students in Wisconsin’s school choice programs outperform their peers, not just in subjects like reading and math, but also on their path to becoming educated and informed citizens. However, school choice is being eroded at the national and state levels. We need to rejuvenate efforts to preserve the hard-won educational freedom of school choice.

What is the most effective way forward?

Through our ongoing relationships with grant recipients and the work we’ve done in this area for more than 30 years, The Bradley Foundation believes that today’s priorities must be:

  • Attracting and retaining effective teachers and school leaders

  • Securing the right facilities for school choice programs to expand

  • Educating and engaging parents on the choices available for their children

Our approach to support for school choice at The Bradley Foundation and the Impact Fund has consistently emphasized solutions that are local, private, voluntary, and family- and donor-oriented. We’ve seen that bottom-up solutions which empower and engage parents and root choice schools in their communities are the most effective in providing the opportunities that students need.

Sources: Wolf, Patrick, The Comprehensive Longitudinal Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program: Summary of Final Reports, SCDP Milwaukee Evaluation, Report #36. DeAngelis, Corey and Wolf, Patrick, Private School Choice and Character: More Evidence from Milwaukee (February 26, 2019). Flanders, Will, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, The Definitive Look at School Test Scores in Milwaukee and Wisconsin for 2019