In a press release issued yesterday, State Rep. Mark Honadel of South Milwaukee indicated he wants to amend the state budget to restore the Learnfare program. In justifying the amendment, here’s what Rep. Honadel said:
I believe the Learnfare program should be restored from the elimination made by Governor Doyle and Joint Finance because the program promotes school enrollment, regular attendance, and high school graduation. A well-educated workforce is vital to our state’s economy and Learnfare can be one more positive aim to that goal.
While Rep. Honadel’s intentions may be good, a study conducted in 1997 found that Learnfare did not contribute to higher participation and attendance in school:
When all teenagers in the study are considered together, Learnfare had no significant effect on school participation in any of the six study semesters.
In most groups, for both Learnfare and control-group teenagers, average rates of attendance and unexcused absences indicate that school participation declined over time. Although we cannot conclusively determine the causes for this, we believe it to be a result of the aging of the subjects.
If Learnfare didn’t really improve school attendance for those participating in the program, is it really worth re-implementing? I agree with Rep. Honadel’s statement that a well-educated workforce is vital to our state’s economy, but I’m not convinced Learnfare is the solution to our state’s education problems.