Information About Private Schools
This and other related information provided by this Department is not intended as legal advice nor as instruction on how to incorporate or establish a private school. It is the sole responsibility of the new private school to develop an educational organization which is in compliance with all statutory requirements.
Section 118.15, Wis. Stats., requires children ages 6 to 18 to attend school regularly in a public or private school. Students and parents who choose the option of non-public instruction can select either a private school or a home-based private educational program. Private schools differ from home-based private educational programs in that private schools provide education programming to more than one family unit, whereas home-based educational programs are "provided to a child by a child's parent or guardian or by a person designated by the parent or guardian." (s. 115.001(3g), Wis. Stats.) The information on this website applies only to the establishment of a private school that will be providing education programs to more than one family unit. For more information about home-based private educational programs, please visit the Department's home-based private education website or call 608/266-5761, or toll-free at 1-888-245-2732, ext. 1.
The statutory definition of a "private school" allows for some variation in curriculum and organizational structure. However, numerous state statutes and administrative rules affect how a private school can administer curriculum, employee regulations and protections, student health services, facilities, enrollment reports, pupil records, special education, and transportation.
The information on this website identifies the relevant education-related statutes that apply to private school administration. The legislature has classified an educational institution as a "private school" if it is privately controlled, provides at least 875 hours of instruction each school year, and provides private or religious-based education as the primary purpose of its educational program. Additionally, the program must provide a sequentially progressive curriculum of fundamental instruction in reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and health. Wisconsin Statutes Pertaining to The Educational Program in Private Schools and Part-Time Attendance Option contain additional information detailing curriculum options and enrollment reporting requirements. The Pupil Transportation homepage provides information on transportation procedures and related issues.
In addition to the education-related statutes, all private schools must comply with applicable state and federal employment law, building codes, and health standards. Questions regarding employee-related statutes, regulations, and protections (worker's compensation, payment of wages, physical examinations, fair employment practices, family and medical leave, etc.) can be directed to the Department of Workforce Development at 608/266-3131. Questions relating to educational facilities (ventilation, electrical wiring, fire prevention, toxic substances, and general building code) should be directed to the local building inspector or the Department of Safety and Professional Services at 608/266-3151. Student immunization and other health-related questions should be directed to the Department of Health Services at 608/266-1865.
There is no state certification process for the establishment of new private schools. If a private school wishes to be listed in the directory maintained by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, it may submit that request on a Help Ticket, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the number below. Schools listed in this directory are recognized as operating in the State. When the new private school is ready to open, the administrator may also wish to notify the public school district within whose boundaries the private school is located, and any other districts from which the school draws students. Then, annually in September, the Department of Public Instruction will send form PI-1207, Private School Report, to all private schools. By completing and returning this form to the Department, private schools verify to the State their existence and compliance with education-related state statutes.
Another potential resource for information about private school operation and management is The Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools (WCRIS). WCRIS may be contacted at (608) 287-1224. Although WCRIS is a membership organization, they have offered to provide general consultation and resources to prospective private school administrators. Specific questions about the application of the statutes should be directed to the private school's attorney for legal assistance or to the appropriate state department.