Date of Award

Spring 2007

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Pink, William

Second Advisor

Schweizer, Heidi

Third Advisor

Lewis, J. A.


Throughout the course of the existence of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) various individuals and groups have attempted to convince parents and the public at large that school vouchers for poor families are not only deserved but a matter of social justice. Based on the belief that education is a major factor in social and economic upward mobility, framers of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program have maintained that giving poor families and disadvantaged children an equal educational opportunity will result in accelerated student achievement and, ultimately, the social and economic upward mobility they desire. At the same time, the MPCP program would result in the creation of alternative schools offering innovative and effective school programs that would meet the diverse needs of urban children. While the rhetoric of the framers has thus envisioned the program one way, parents have sought to fashion the program in reality in other ways. Seeking to find educational environments sensitive to the needs of their children and themselves, parents have exercised choice according to their personal aspirations for their children. Underlying the logistics of the program itself, however, are deeper questions around the whole concept of choice. The passion and persistence of participants suggests that the framers and parents are driven by something deeper· than just the ability to establish new schools. The intrinsic value of the freedom to choose is deeply embedded in the concept and practice of power and subsequent values of self-esteem, cultural awareness, and social equity.



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