“The Department of Education (ED) and the Obama Administration kicked off 2009 with a goal to get America on track and to return to being number one in the world in high school and college graduation rates…” Well, look no further than Milwaukee.

Low-income Milwaukee students using vouchers to attend private schools have a graduation rate 18 percent higher than students in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), according to a new report. The 20-year-old Milwaukee Parental Choice Program was the country’s first publicly-funded voucher program.

These findings are even more significant since MPS students do not all come from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds-unlike students using vouchers. Additionally, the cost to taxpayers for supporting a Milwaukee voucher student is less than half of what it would cost to send them to a Milwaukee public school, $6,442 compared to $14,011. Based on the findings of a separate analysis reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, it would cost taxpayers an additional $21.2 million in personal income and $3.6 million in extra tax revenue for Milwaukee public schools to match the graduation rate of voucher students.

Success like this from the country’s oldest voucher program should encourage elected officials in the nation’s capital to reconsider their recent decision to kill the country’s newest voucher program, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program-that is, if they’re really serious about following a “whether-it-works” approach to education reform.