Ramirez Family Foundation

Nearly 30 years ago, Milwaukee’s business community threw its weight behind a hoped-for solution to improving educational outcomes in the city.

Stagnating graduation rates in Milwaukee Public Schools and even lower college completion rates pushed for-profit leaders to wade into the contentious political waters of school choice.

“There was just a tremendous challenge in finding the talent (business leaders) needed, and there was a dearth of students going on to two-year and four-year institutions,” said Tim Sheehy, president and chief executive officer of Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. “So, we engaged because we felt that giving parents a choice would open up more quality education options for their students.”

MAC lobbied for a state law providing public funding for students enrolled in private voucher schools, paving the way for the expansion of school choice beyond the original Milwaukee Parental Choice Program pilot initiated by state legislator Polly Williams. The

group later advocated for the inclusion of religious schools and the lifting of enrollment caps in the choice programs and the creation of local authorizers for independent public charter schools.

“At a critical moment in time, the MMAC stepped up and provided financial support to hire organizers that were key to bringing parents and community members to the table to support the passage of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program,” said education reform advocate Howard Fuller.

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