Date of Award

December 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Dr. Thandeka Chapman

Committee Members

Dr. Martin Scanlan, Dr. René Antrop-González, Dr. Julie Kailin, Dr. Raquel Oxford


Critical Race Theory, Free Market Theory, Latino Critical Race Theory, Latinos, Religious Education, Voucher Program


In Milwaukee, The Milwaukee Parental School Choice Program (MPCP) is a program that "allows low-income Milwaukee Students to attend participating private or religious schools located in Milwaukee with no charge for tuition if certain eligibility criteria are met" (Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction). The program allows for qualifying families to use a portion of the public educational funding selected (voucher) for their student to attend a public school or the private school of their choice. For low income families, school choice is an opportunity to flee from schools that struggle with dropouts, absenteeism and low achievement in hopes of a school that will provide their student with more academic opportunities.

Understanding the goal of school choice, the purpose of this qualitative case study is to observe and analyze how a voucher, parochial high school in a Midwestern city (CCHS) is serving or disserving Latina/o students who receive vouchers. The sample population consisted of 30 students who identify themselves as Latina/o, speak fluent Spanish and are recipients of the Voucher program, 13 families, 15 teachers and 2 administrators. Interviews, observations, photovoice and the collection of artifacts and records were used to collect the data.

Voucher schools like CCHS were another resource for families, especially low income families. The information provided in this dissertation shows a different, and quite dismal, picture. Unlike the studies done in the 80's and 90's that address the effectiveness of Catholic schools for poor children of color, CCHS may not be more effective for disadvantaged students. Students at CCHS do not have a quality academic curriculum, and teacher expectations are blurred by deficit ideologies that blame students for their academic failure.

Furthermore, policies and practices are set into place to ensure that students do not become academically successful. The Notre Dame Task Force on the Participation of Latina/o Children and Families in Catholic Schools (2009) calls for the recruitment of more Latina/o students in Catholic schools, but until the issues mentioned in this research are addressed, schools like CCHS will continue to prepare students of color for failure.