It’s not even March yet, but the Racine voucher program has already hit its student application limit for the 2012-2013 school year.
The Parental Private School Choice Program (PPSCP) is Wisconsin’s latest expansion of America’s first modern voucher system. It allows students in Racine to attend the institution of their choice using public funds. Wednesday’s news means that the program will have met its student limit in both provisional years of its existence.
The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) announced Wednesday that the PPSCP has met its second-year cap for interested students. As a result, schools participating in the program can no longer accept applications from potential voucher students. Families with applications already on record will be notified in the next month in order to allow students and the schools themselves to prepare for the coming school year.
The PPSCP began in the 2011-2012 school year under a 250-student cap. That figure was hit quickly as Racine pupils opted to attend one of the eight qualifying schools under the program. In 2012-2013, this student cap will be lifted to 500. After next year, there will be no limit on how many children can receive vouchers aside from those dealing with family income. Only students hailing from families with a total income of up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for the program.
It is not yet known how many more schools will apply for approval with the DPI to accept voucher students. That process will not be complete until this summer. There is no geographic limitation on which schools can enroll these students, but they must be cleared by DPI before being added to the program.
The news in Racine is another strong example of a recent resurgence in school choice in Wisconsin. The announcement comes on the heels of a longitudinal study released by the state-sponsored School Choice Demonstration Project. Their data showed significant growth in student achievement for voucher students in Milwaukee compared to similar students in regular public schools.
Can the Racine voucher program duplicate these recent benefits? It’s too soon to tell. What we do know, however, is that parents are taking advantage of this opportunity to find the right school for their children. If participation is a measure of success, then the PPSCP can already be declared a victory for Racine’s families.