Wisconsin’s statewide Parental Choice Program, a private school voucher program, was enacted and launched in 2013. The 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 in this section.
Wisconsin’s statewide Parental Choice Program is open to any income-qualified child who resides outside of the attendance zones for Milwaukee Public Schools and the Racine Unified School District.
In 2016–17, the maximum voucher amount is $7,323 for grades K –8 and $7,969 for grades 9 –12. Each school year, maximum voucher payments increase by the dollar amount equal to the dollar amount increase in general school aid to Wisconsin public schools. Parents of students in grades 9 –12 that have an income greater than 220 percent of the federal poverty level ($54,120 for a family of four in 2017–18) may be charged additional tuition above the voucher amount.
Wisconsin families with income no more than 220 percent of the federal poverty level ($54,420 for a family of four in 2017–18) and reside outside of either the Milwaukee Public Schools or the Racine Unified School District are eligible. Moreover, a family’s income limit increases by $7,000 if the student’s parents/legal guardians are married. Each district will have an enrollment cap of 1 percent of its public school district enrollment, although this cap will increase by one percentage point each year beginning in 2017–18 until the enrollment limit reaches 10 percent, then no cap.
Wisconsin took an encouraging step toward universal school choice by allowing all low-income Wisconsin students to be eligible to receive vouchers, excluding those in two school districts that each have their own school choice programs. In the second year of the program (2014–15), enrollment was limited to 1,000 of the state’s more than 870,000 students. However, the enrollment cap was removed in the 2015 state budget, which is a positive step for Wisconsin students. Although there is no student enrollment cap, this program does contain a district percentage enrollment cap and new grade-level entry point restrictions. The grade level entry points were waived for the 2015–16 school year, but recommenced in the 2016–17 school year. Like the Milwaukee and Racine programs, this program could be improved by increasing voucher amounts, removing income tests for eligibility, and removing any grade-level entry point restrictions.
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.
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