More than 50 new schools will join a Wisconsin program that allows low-income students who live outside Milwaukee and Racine to attend a private school using a taxpayer-funded voucher.
The number of schools participating in the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program grew from 82 this school year to 135 in the 2016-17 school year. Open enrollment for schools in the program started Monday and continues through April 20.
“This increase in the number of schools is not surprising, said Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin. “We know from conversations around Wisconsin that many more schools are considering entering the program to further serve families in their communities.”
The number of students served by the program has increased from 511 at its inception two years ago to 2,514 for the 2015-16 school year. Participation is capped at 1 percent of the total number of students in an area’s public school district. If more students apply than the law allows, a lottery is used to select who gets the vouchers.
The cap will increase to 2 percent in 2016-17 and go up 1 percent per year for a decade until the cap is removed after the 11th year.
Bay City Christian in Green Bay will be one of the new entrants next school year. Administrator Michael Phillips said the vouchers will help local families send children to the school who have trouble affording the $3,800-per-year tuition.
“I’m pleased we’ve been able to join in,” he told Watchdog.org. “A lot of our families will be able to benefit from the program.”
Phillips said such school choice programs put the power of children’s educational destinies where it belongs.
“You’re taking control of children’s education and putting it in parents’ hands,” he said.
Students living in Racine and Milwaukee can attend private or parochial schools via vouchers in city-specific programs — Racine Parental Choice Program and Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. The Milwaukee voucher program was started in 1990, while Racine residents have had the option since 2011. Nearly 30,000 students participate in those two programs.
Taxpayers in Wisconsin pay an average of about $7,500 per voucher.