The 1990 launch of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program marked the dawn of the modern school voucher movement.
It was the product of an unlikely collaboration. Conservative acolytes of free-market economist Milton Friedman in the administration of Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson aligned with progressive black Democrats like the late state Rep. Polly Williams*.
The motivations of the two camps make sense. Conservative reformers drew upon ideas Friedman had promoted for decades. Williams wanted new options for disadvantaged Milwaukee children she represented.
And yet, opponents of today’s private school choice programs continue to assert the ideas shaping today’s voucher programs have other, far more sinister, origins — specifically, short-lived, shameful attempts by Southern whites to create private “segregation academies,” with tuition funded from public coffers.