MADISON — Nineteen private nonsectarian and religious schools registered with the Department of Public Instruction by the Jan. 10 deadline to accept students through the Racine Parental Choice Program (RPCP) for the 2016-17 school year. The list of schools registering to participate in the program includes one new school that currently participates in the Milwaukee and Wisconsin Parental Choice programs.
The RPCP allows students who reside in the Racine Unified School District 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. In addition, all students applying for the RPCP must meet one of the following attendance requirements for 2016-17: (1) have attended a public school in Wisconsin in the prior school year; (2) not have been enrolled in school in the prior school year; (3) applying to attend kindergarten, first, or ninth grades for the coming school year; or (4) participated in the RPCP or Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP) in the 2015-16 school year.
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 their family 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. Parents who wish to enroll their children in a private or religious school participating in the RPCP 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 Racine voucher program had 2,127 students (2,055.6 full-time-equivalent). The RPCP began in the 2011-12 school year. Taxpayer costs for the 2014-15 school year were $12.2 million. Since inception and through last school year, payments to private and religious schools in Racine for the voucher program total $24,216,880.
A list of schools that plan to participate in the RPCP for the 2016-17 school year, including the schools’ open application period or periods, is in the official news release. The school marked with an asterisk (*) will be new to the RPCP in fall 2016. Additional information about the private school choice programs is available at https://dpi.wi.gov/sms/choice-programs.