It's not the first study to find limited education benefit in the extensive Milwaukee charter school program, but it's worth noting that one of the researchers is a member of the University of Arkansas education reform group. From the UA news release:
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Researchers report little difference in academic achievement of students attending independent charter schools in Milwaukee and students attending Milwaukee Public Schools in a preliminary study released Tuesday, Dec. 14. John F. Witte of the University of Wisconsin and Patrick J. Wolf of the University of Arkansas led the charter school study.
The research showed few significant effects of attending a charter school on achievement gains in either math or reading after one year, with the exception of one model the researchers used for math. Controlling for prior achievement, they found some math gains for the charter school students.
"The initial evidence suggests that charter school students in Milwaukee are doing about as well as similar public school students in reading but may be slightly outgaining them in math," stated Witte. He cautioned that more definite evidence will come from future reports drawing upon more years of achievement data.
The team looked further into differences among charter schools and found students in independent charter schools that were converted from private schools performed better than students in Milwaukee Public Schools in both math and reading after controlling for factors such as student characteristics and school switching. Students in non-conversion, independent charter schools did not score higher than their counterparts in Milwaukee Public Schools, the team found
The full news release also notes that the Milwaukee school voucher program is cheaper than the cost of regular Milwaukee public schools. That, of course, spurred the billionaires' drive for voucher programs in the first place. That movement has morphed most places into charter school pushes, because they've proved more politically palatable. In Wisconsin, some private schools converted to charter schools to avail themselves of the public money. What we see here may be the leading edge of a renewal of the voucher push.