Schools wishing to participate increase by more than 41 percent
Legislator calls for the elimination of the statewide Choice Program cap
More than 3,400 students and 68 private schools applied for spots in Wisconsin’s statewide voucher program this spring, according to Department of Public Instruction (DPI) data. Unfortunately, the majority of these applicants will be rejected because of the 1,000-pupil and 25-school cap that was placed on the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP) in its second year of existence.
The DPI will hold a lottery this week to determine which students will receive state funded vouchers to attend one of the 26 schools approved for the WPCP. The program is limited to only the 25 schools that receive the most applicants, but a tie for the 25th spot will expand that to 26 schools in 2014-2015. Only 1,000 students will be selected to participate this fall.
The 3,407 applicants greatly exceeded the number of students who applied for vouchers in the WPCP’s pilot year. 2,415 pupils had applied for what were just 500 slots before the 2013-2014 school year. DPI has already cut that 3,407 figure to 2,834 students after the state eliminated 42 schools and their 573 applicants from consideration after failing to garner enough applications.
483 of these applications came from students that were already in the program, which will leave 2,352 students to vie for 517 vouchers.
State Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) went on the record to voice her support for eliminating the program’s student caps. “Parents continue to strive to give their children the very best of educational opportunities. Since its inception, school choice in Wisconsin has been a winner for Wisconsin families, students and taxpayers,” said Sen. Vukmir. “We must raise or eliminate the cap for the statewide program in the coming legislative session, so that each child, regardless of their zip code, has access to the best available education.“
If you exclude the students who had previously received a voucher in 2013-2014 and had not graduated, the breakdown of new applicants to eligible schools from public and private school backgrounds shows that slightly more students from private schools applied for vouchers in 2014 than had in 2013.
Sheboygan led all Wisconsin cities with three private schools that qualified for the WPCP in 2014-2015. Kenosha, Manitowoc, Oshkosh, Green Bay, Appleton and Wisconsin Rapids each had two schools qualify for the WPCP. Cities like Stevens Point, Wausau, La Crosse, Fond du Lac, Beloit, and Eau Claire had one school apiece that will participate in the statewide voucher program this fall.
Six new schools will enter the WPCP as a result of local demand, which will force five programs out of the system due to the 25- (or, now, 26-) school limit. As a result, the Green Bay Area Catholic Education’s South and West campuses, Plymouth’s Saint John Lutheran School, the Sheboygan Area Lutheran High School, and Madison’s Lighthouse Christian School have dropped out of the upcoming lottery process to accept new WPCP students. They will, however, continue to provide vouchers to the 55 students that received them in 2013-2014.
Parents will be notified of their voucher status by the DPI sometime later this month. Despite the significant growth in applications from both students and schools, there are currently no plans to expand the WPCP beyond its 1,000-student limit.