Newly released figures from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) show that participation in the statewide voucher program rose substantially to over 2,500 students after lawmakers lifted the 1,000 student enrollment cap on the program in the 2015-17 state budget act.
Currently, per-district enrollment in the statewide voucher program is limited to 1 percent of that district’s student population.
According to third Friday in September counts, a total of 2,514 students are receiving vouchers to attend private schools under the statewide voucher program, known formally as the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP), up from about 1,000 students last year.
Of the 1,640 new students enrolled in the statewide voucher program for 2015-16, only 19.1 percent had attended a Wisconsin public school the previous year, while 74.8 percent had already attended a private school. (The remainder were either not in school, were home-schooled, or attended school out of state).
Private schools taking part in the voucher programs this year receive $7,214 per student in grades K-8, and $7,860 for each high school student.
Under a set of funding changes made in the state budget act, vouchers for students in the statewide program are funded by reducing state aid to the public school district in which those voucher students reside.
State Superintendent Tony Evers said the voucher program is shifting money away from public education, particularly outside of Milwaukee and Racine.
“Most of the students, especially outstate, that are participating in the voucher program are already in private schools,” he said. “So essentially we’re subsidizing private education.”
The 142 districts affected by the statewide program stand to lose $11.9 million in state aid this year, according to the DPI. Those districts collectively will be permitted, but not required, to levy an additional $15.8 million in local property taxes, likely pushing up tax bills in some communities.
Participation in a separate Racine private school voucher program rose about 23 percent to 2,127 students.
The 142 districts affected by the statewide program stand to lose $11.9 million in state aid this year, according to the department. They will be able to levy an additional $15.8 million in local property taxes, likely pushing up tax bills in some communities.