Parental Choice Program (Statewide)

  • Voucher
  • Enacted 2013
  • Launched 2013

Wisconsin’s statewide Parental Choice Program, a private school voucher program, offers school vouchers to students whose families meet certain income qualifications and are not assigned to the Milwaukee Public Schools or Racine Unified school districts. Learn more about the program’s funding, eligibility, and regulations on this page.

We do not administer this program.

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  • 19,205

    Participating Students (Fall 2023)

  • 31%

    of Families with Children Income-eligible Outside of Milwaukee or Racine

  • 330

    Participating Schools (Fall 2023)

  • $10,443

    Average Voucher Value (202324)

  • 76%

    Value as a Percentage of Public School Per-student Spending

Wisconsin’s Parental Choice Program (Statewide) Participation

Students Participating
School Year Ending

Student Funding

In 2023–24, the maximum voucher amount is $9,499 for grades K–8 and $11,993 for grades 9–12. Voucher amounts are calculated as a portion of the state’s revenue limit, which includes a combination of state aid and local property taxes. Each school year, maximum voucher payments increase as general school aid to Wisconsin public schools increases.

(Last updated December 14, 2023)

Student Eligibility

Wisconsin (outside of Milwaukee and Racine) families with income no more than 300 percent of the federal poverty level ($90,000 for a family of four in 2023–24) and who do not reside in the Milwaukee Public Schools or the Racine Unified school districts are eligible. Moreover, a family’s income limit increases by $7,000 if the student’s parents or legal guardians are married. Each district currently has an enrollment cap of seven percent of its public school district enrollment able to participate in the program. This cap will increase by one percentage point each year until the enrollment limit reaches 10 percent, then there will no longer be a cap. Students previously on a voucher wait list because of this cap will be eligible after it is expanded.

Students must have been either: (1) enrolled in a public school or home school in the previous year; (2) not enrolled in school in the previous year; (3) enrolled in a private school under the voucher program in the previous year; (4) be entering kindergarten, first grade, or ninth grade; or (5) attended school in a different state in the previous year.

(Last updated December 14, 2023)

EdChoice Expert Feedback

Wisconsin’s statewide voucher for low-income students helps nearly 20,000 students access schools that are the right fit for them, but policymakers could do more to expand educational opportunity.

Eligibility for the scholarships is limited to students from families statewide (outside Milwaukee or Racine) earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level ($90,000 for a family of four in 2023–24). About one-third of Wisconsin students are eligible to receive a scholarship. Statewide, less than 5 percent of students participate in one of Wisconsin’s private educational choice options (including the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the Racine Parental Choice Program, the Special Needs Scholarship Program, and the K-12 Private School Tuition Deduction).

The average scholarship size is about $10,500, which is about three-quarters of the average expenditure per student at Wisconsin’s district schools.

In 2023, Wisconsin policymakers took the positive step of increasing the voucher amounts to be closer to per-pupil spending at district schools. Voucher students will now receive approximately 76% of per pupil funding at the public schools. Policymakers should also expand eligibility to all students. The program could also be converted into an education savings account to ensure that all students have access to the education that’s the right fit for them, whether private school or a customized course of education.

Wisconsin’s statewide voucher program has some unnecessary and counterproductive regulations. For example, the program requires voucher students in certain grades to take the state’s standardized test. Instead of mandating a single test, policymakers should allow parents and schools to choose from a variety of nationally norm-referenced tests. Policymakers should also amend the program so that it no longer interferes with schools’ admissions standards.

(Last updated December 14, 2023)

Rules and Regulations

  • Income Limit: 300 percent x poverty
  • Prior Year Public School Requirement: Yes, with exceptions
  • Geographic Limit: Statewide (except for Milwaukee and Racine)
  • Enrollment Cap: 5 percent of each public district’s enrollment (escalator)
  • Voucher Cap: $9,499 (K–8) / $11,993 (9–12)
  • Testing Mandates: State test

School Requirements

  • Meet state nondiscrimination policies
  • Allow students to opt out of religious programs
  • Administer state testing to scholarship recipients in third, fourth, eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th grade
  • Receive accreditation within three years of participating in the program
  • Annually submit to the state a financial audit conducted by a certified public accountant
  • Provide the state evidence of sound fiscal practices and financial viability
  • School administrators must undergo financial training and have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution of higher education
    • Teachers must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution of higher education, and teacher aides must have received a high school diploma or been granted a GED or HSED
  • Administer background checks for all employees
  • Provide 1,050 hours of direct pupil instruction in grades 1–6 and 1,137 hours of direct pupil instruction in grades 7–12
  • Provide the department of public instruction with information about the academic program at the participating school and student test score data
  • Meet all health and safety codes

(Last updated December 14, 2023)

Governing Statutes

Wis. Stat. § 118.60

(Last updated December 14, 2023)