MADISON — One hundred and twenty-four private nonsectarian and religious schools registered with the Department of Public Instruction by the Jan. 10 deadline to accept students through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) for the 2016-17 school year. The list includes seven new schools that registered and have met the initial requirements established in state law to allow them to begin accepting applications for voucher students. Several MPCP schools also registered to participate in either the Racine or Wisconsin Parental Choice programs or both.
The MPCP allows students who reside in the city of Milwaukee and meet certain eligibility requirements to receive a taxpayer subsidized voucher to attend participating private or religious schools. To qualify for the program in the 2016-17 school year, a new student must have a family income equal to or less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $73,401 for a family of four or $80,401 if the child’s parents or guardians are married.
The private school, on behalf of each student’s parent or guardian, receives a state aid payment for each eligible choice student. Eligible students in grades kindergarten through eight may attend the private school with no charge for tuition. Eligible students in grades nine through 12 may be charged tuition if the family’s income exceeds 220 percent of the federal poverty level ($53,826 for a family of four or $60,826 if the child’s parents or guardians are married). Students must reapply to the program each year; however, students continuing in the program do not have to meet the 300 percent of poverty level income limit. City of Milwaukee parents who wish to enroll their children in a private or religious school participating in the MPCP next fall should apply using the online parent application available at https://dpi.wi.gov/sms/choice-programs/student-applications.
When registering with the DPI, each participating school selects which open application period or periods it will accept student applications. Schools are limited to accepting applications only during that time. If the number of eligible student applications received during a specified open application period exceeds choice enrollment limits at the school, the school must use a random selection process to determine which students will attend under the choice program. Choice schools must send written notification of students’ acceptance or denial within 60 days of the application being submitted to the school.
For the current school year’s third Friday in September enrollment count, the Milwaukee voucher program had 27,619 students (26,766.9 full-time-equivalent). The MPCP began in the 1990-91 school year and is the oldest voucher program in the nation. Taxpayer costs for the 2014-15 school year were $189.6 million. Since inception and through last school year, payments to private and religious schools in Milwaukee for the voucher program total $1,775,168,799.
A list of schools that plan to participate in the MPCP for the 2016-17 school year, including the schools’ open application period or periods, is in the official news release. Schools marked with an asterisk (*) will be new to the MPCP in fall 2016. Schools new to the program for fall must, by Aug. 1, submit a certificate of occupancy and must obtain pre-accreditation. Additional information about the private school choice programs is available at https://dpi.wi.gov/sms/choice-programs.