MADISON — Twenty-seven 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 2019-20 school year. The list includes three new schools, two of which currently participate in the Wisconsin and Milwaukee 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 2019-20 school year, a new student must come from a family whose income is equal to or less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $75,300 for a family of four or $82,300 if the child’s parents or guardians are married. Generally, for the RPCP, students must be applying to 4- or 5-year-old kindergarten or grades one or nine; or meet one of the following requirements for the prior school year: (a) attended a public school in Wisconsin; (b) attended school in another state; (c) not enrolled in school; (d) participated in the choice program; or (e) on a choice waiting list. 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.
The private school, on behalf of each student’s parent or guardian, receives a state aid payment for each eligible choice student. The payment, set in state law, is $7,754 for students in kindergarten through grade eight and $8,400 for students in grades nine through 12 for the current school year. Eligible students in kindergarten through grade 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’s income exceeds 220 percent of the federal poverty level ($55,220 for a family of four or $62,220 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.
When registering with the DPI, each participating school selects which open application 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 end of the application period during which an application is received.
For the current school year’s third Friday in September enrollment count, the Racine voucher program had 3,324 students (3,241.6 full-time-equivalent). Taxpayer costs for the 2017-18 school year were $21.9 million. The RPCP began in the 2011-12 school year. Since inception and through last school year, payments to private and religious schools in Racine for the voucher program total $79.2 million.
A list of schools that plan to participate in the RPCP for the 2019-20 school year, including the schools’ open application periods, is in the official news release. Schools marked with an asterisk (*) will be new to the RPCP in fall 2019. More information, including the most up-to-date list of participating schools, can be found on the department’s Private School Choice Programs website.