The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program was established in 1989, it was the first of its kind. The program allowed low income families to use state funds to send their children, at no cost to them, to the public or private school of their choice.
David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institution, gives Thompson and a Milwaukee state legislator, Polly Williams, "most of the credit" for creating school choice. "The (Milwaukee) school choice reform was pivotal in putting choice on the national agenda."
In an editorial praising Thompson as "America's No. 1 public-policy tinkerer," the Capital Times declared that after welfare reform, "If there is a second "reform" for which Thompson is credited, it is state support of the development of school vouchers."