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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
220 new schools applied to participate in Wisconsin’s Parental Choice Program for the 2018-’19 school year.

220 new schools applied to participate in Wisconsin’s Parental Choice Program for the 2018-’19 school year.

Taxpayers bear burden of growing school choice program

While public schools in Wisconsin fight for funding, 222 new private schools registered with the Department of Public Instruction to participate in the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program.

Students participating in the program use taxpayer subsidies to attend participating private schools. The growing size of the statewide program has generated controversy andDPI communications director Tom McCarthy said this hurts public school students.

“I think it’s stressing the ability for the state to pay...and it’s asking local property tax-payers to shoulder more of the cost of both systems,” McCarthy said.

However, students participating in WPCP cost the taxpayer only about two-thirds that of traditional public school students in the Racine and Milwaukee school districts, according to Jim Bender, president of the Wisconsin School Choice Program,.

In order to participate in the program a family must earn a maximum of 220 percent of the federal poverty line, which amounts to $54,120 for a family of four or $61,120 for married couples, according to the DPI.

But Bender feels the DPI is pushing an anti-voucher agenda by incorrectly reflecting the program’s requirements to both parents and the media. Bender argues parents are discouraged to apply for the program when shown the lower income requirements for single parent households, while the agency presents the public with higher income requirements.

“There are those that make arguments that the income limits are too high,” Bender said. “It is just interesting to me that the information they send out to parents and the information they send out to the media is different.”

McCarthy refuted that claim, calling it “incredibly spurious.”

Enrollment in the program is capped at 3 percent of each public school district’s individual population, an increase from 2 percent last year. However the 2 percent cap was not reached and McCarthy doesn’t expect capacity to be an issue this year either.

Of the 222 schools applying for the statewide school choice program, 21 previously participated in either the Milwaukee or Racine Parental Choice Programs and 48 are new private schools.

Bender championed the increased choices parents will have in educating their children, while McCarthy warns of the cost to taxpayers.

“When it really comes down to it we have a growing concern that if we’re having trouble funding one system of schools that is required by the constitution to exist continuing to expand a second set and asking people to pay for it eventually will not be sustainable,” McCarthy said.

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