March 14, 2014
by Christian D’Andrea
MacIver Institute Education Policy Analyst
One year after a statewide school voucher program went into effect in Wisconsin, private schools are beginning to take notice.
68 schools applied to participate in the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, a program that allows students outside of Milwaukee and Racine to attend private schools through state-funded vouchers. That program began in 2013-2014 with a 500-student cap and will expand to include up to 1,000 students in 2014-2015. That list of schools includes 43 new institutions that did not participate in the pilot year of the WPCP.
The 68 applicants is a 41.6 percent increase over last year’s list of interested schools. 48 institutions applied for the WPCP in 2013.
This outpouring of voucher support from private institutions shows that school choice programs have received a strong reception outside of Milwaukee and Racine. Schools in cities from La Crosse to Green Bay are lining up to give voucher students a chance to learn in their classrooms. Green Bay/De Pere led the way with seven applicants in 2014, while Sheboygan was second with six schools interested in enrolling voucher students.
The applicants included 13 schools that also participate in either the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program or the Racine Parental Choice Program. However, if the WPCP hits its student limits, which it is expected to do, these schools will be ineligible for the statewide program and instead limited to serving only voucher students from within their district.
The 25 schools that are already in the program will be allotted the same number of students that they educated in 2013-2014. The remaining schools will have to fight for applicants if they want to be included in the WPCP. Only the 25 schools that receive the most overall applications in the spring will earn seats under the program’s 1,000-student cap this fall.
That means at least 18 interested schools will be left in the cold when it comes time to enroll voucher students. There will also be many Wisconsin families who will be left out as well; last year saw 2,415 students apply for the 500 slots in the program’s first year. There’s a clear demand for vouchers outside of Milwaukee and Racine – the question for Wisconsin now is whether or not the supply will be increased to meet it.