MADISON — One-hundred-sixty-three private nonsectarian and religious schools and school systems registered with the Department of Public Instruction by the Jan. 10 deadline to accept students for the 2017‑18 school year through the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP). Eleven schools that previously participated in either the Milwaukee or Racine Parental Choice programs or both are registering to join the WPCP for the first time in 2017‑18. In addition, there are 31 new private schools applying to participate in the statewide voucher program.
The WPCP allows students who reside outside of the Milwaukee and Racine Unified school districts to use a taxpayer‑funded subsidy to attend participating private or religious schools. To qualify for the program for the 2017‑18 school year, a new student must have a family income equal to or less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $44,955 for a family of four or $51,955 if the child’s parents or guardians are married. In addition, all students applying for the statewide choice program for the 2017-18 school year must meet one of the following attendance requirements:
- attended a public school in Wisconsin in the prior school year;
- was not enrolled in school in the prior school year;
- are applying to attend kindergarten, first, or ninth grades for the coming school year; or
- participated in the WPCP or Racine Parental Choice Program (RPCP) in the current school year.
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 ($53,460 for a family of four or $60,460 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. The amount, set in state law, is $7,323 for students in grades K-8 and $7,969 for students in grades 9-12 for the current school year.
A private choice school is not required to provide transportation to choice students. According to state law, the resident public school district may be required to provide transportation under certain circumstances. More information is available on the department’s Pupil Transportation webpage.
Parents who wish to enroll their children in a private or religious school participating in the statewide voucher program for the 2017-18 school year must complete the online application between Feb. 1 and April 20 on the Private School Choice Programs Student Applications website. After completing the online application, parents must provide residency and income documentation (if applicable) to the school(s) they apply to before the close of the application period at 4 p.m. on April 20.
Enrollment in the statewide voucher program in 2017-18 is limited to 2 percent of a given school district’s student population. The 2015-17 state budget (2015 Wisconsin Act 55) made certain provisions for how the WPCP is funded. Students who participated in the program prior to the 2015-16 school year will continue to be fully funded from state general purpose revenue. Pupils who begin attending a private school under the WPCP in the 2015-16 school year and thereafter (incoming pupils) are funded with a reduction to each public school district’s state general aid. If the public school district does not receive a general aid payment sufficient to cover the aid reduction, the balance would be reduced from other state aid received by the district. Incoming pupils in the WPCP are included in the resident public school district’s membership for state general aid purposes, but the resident district may not levy to backfill the aid reduction. School districts will receive an annual revenue limit adjustment equivalent to the aid deduction incurred to pay for choice pupils.
The WPCP began in the 2013-14 school year. For the current school year’s third Friday in September enrollment count, the statewide voucher program had 3,061 students (2,992.7 FTE). Taxpayer costs for the 2015-16 school year were $18.4 million. Since inception and through last school year, payments to private and religious schools in Wisconsin for the statewide voucher program total $28,926,671.
A list of schools that plan to participate in the WPCP for the 2017‑18 school year is in the official news release. Schools marked with an asterisk (*) will be new to the WPCP in fall 2017. Schools new to the program for fall must obtain pre-accreditation by Aug. 1, 2017 (if they are not already fully accredited). Prior to being eligible to receive voucher payments from the state, schools must, by May 1, submit information regarding their budget. They must also submit, by Aug. 1, documentation of their insurance coverage and certain school policies.
NOTES: The list of participating schools in the official news release is current as of 1/31/2017. More information, including the most up-to-date list of participating schools, can be found on the department’s Parental Choice Programs website.