Milwaukee is a city with three competitive sectors: charters, voucher schools, and a shrinking public school system. It is also one of the lowest performing cities on the NAEP, a demonstration of the inability of competition among schools to improve test scores.

So what do Wisconsin officials do in response to these dismal facts? They are expanding the charter sector. One of the beneficiaries of the plan to increase charters is the California-based charter chain called Rocketship, which cuts costs by putting kids in front of computers for part of the day, relying on inexperienced young teachers, focusing on test scores, and eliminating the arts.

The first Rocketship charter opened this fall in Milwaukee, projecting an enrollment of 485, but was able to enroll only 307 students. This means a likely shortfall for the school of about $1.4 million. Spokespersons for the school were undaunted and promised to forge ahead with their plan to open eight Rocketship charters in Milwaukee. The chain is opening in other cities as well, usually marketing to low-income families with promises of innovation and high technology.