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 voucher program allows income-qualified children outside of Milwaukee Public Schools and the Racine Unified School District to receive vouchers to attend private schools chosen by their parents.
In 2019–20, the maximum voucher amount is $7,954 for grades K–8 and $8,600 for grades 9–12. Each school year, maximum voucher payments increase by the dollar amount increase equal to the dollar amount increase in general school aid to Wisconsin public schools.
Wisconsin families with income no more than 220 percent of the federal poverty level ($56,650 for a family of four in 2019–20) and who reside outside of both 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 or legal guardians are married. Each district currently has an enrollment cap of 4 percent of its public school district enrollment able to participate in the program. This cap will increase by 1 percentage point each year until the enrollment limit reaches 10 percent, then there will no longer be a cap. Students previously on a wait list because of this cap will be eligible after it is expanded.
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 age entry points were waived for the 2015–16 school year, but recommenced in the 2016–17 school year. The program also imposes burdensome regulations on private schools, such as requiring a single state test and prohibiting religious schools from requiring religious classes for participating students. Like the Milwaukee and Racine programs, lawmakers could improve this program by increasing voucher amounts, removing income tests for eligibility, removing any grade-level entry point restrictions and eliminating unnecessary regulations on private schools
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.
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