Wisconsin enacted and launched the Parental Private School Choice Program in Racine in 2011. The program offers private school vouchers to Racine families who meet certain income restrictions. Continue reading this page for more program details, including funding, eligibility, regulations and more.
Wisconsin’s Parental Private School Choice Program (Racine) is open to any income-qualified child who attended Racine Unified Public Schools in the prior year or any current or entering private school student in kindergarten (including 4- and 5-year-old students) or first grade. Ninth-graders entering private school also are eligible.
In 2017–18, the maximum voucher amount is $7,230 for grades K–8 and $8,176 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.
Students from families with household incomes up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level ($73,800 for a family of four in 2017–18) are eligible for vouchers. Moreover, a family’s income limit eligibility increases by $7,000 if the student’s parents or legal guardians are married. Students who are continuing the program from previous years and those who were on a school’s waiting list in the prior year because the school did not have space available do not need to demonstrate income eligibility. 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 or (4) be entering kindergarten, first grade or ninth grade. If an applying student has a sibling already in the private school the applicant wishes to attend, he or she will receive preference in the voucher lottery.
Eligibility in Racine’s school voucher program is relatively restrictive. The program also has room for improvement in terms of its burdensome regulatory environment. Schools must follow the state’s academic standards (which cannot include mandatory religion classes), must administer the state test, must provide specific yearly hours of instruction, can hire only teachers with college degrees, must admit voucher students randomly and must meet accountability requirements. With the program’s enrollment cap now removed, Wisconsin also should consider removing the arbitrary income limits placed on families and the unnecessary and burdensome regulations imposed on schools.
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.