UPDATE: 135 private, religious schools register for voucher students

UPDATED Thursday, February 4, 2016---1:25 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The state Department of Public Instruction says 135 private and religious schools in Wisconsin have registered to accept voucher students.

DPI says it includes 31 new private schools applying to participate in the statewide voucher program. It allows students who live outside the Milwaukee and Racine Unified school districts to use a taxpayer-funded subsidy to attend a participating private or religious school. The program is limited by parental income requirements, including a level of about $45,000 a year for a family of four.

The voucher for the 2016-2017 school year is about $7,300 for students in grades K through 8 and nearly $8,000 for high school students. Participating schools aren't required to provide transportation for choice students.

The statewide voucher program includes about 2,500 students.

Copyright 2016: Associated Press


UPDATED Tuesday, October 27, 2015---12:45 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Enrollment in Wisconsin's statewide private school voucher program has more than doubled since enrollment caps were lifted.

The state Department of Public Instruction on Tuesday reported that 2,514 students were enrolled in a voucher school for the current year. That is up from 1,008 students last year when the cap was in place.

Of the new students, 75 percent had attended a private school the previous year before taking the taxpayer-funded subsidy to continue their private school education. Only 19 percent of new voucher school enrollees came from a public school.

The vouchers are worth $7,214 a year to students through grade eight, and $7,860 for high schoolers.

The total cost for the statewide program this school year was $18.3 million.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press


UPDATED: Thursday, May 28, 2015 --- 2:22 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A new analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau says a Republican-approved expansion of the private-school voucher program could divert up to $800 million from public schools over the next decade.

The estimate was prepared at the request of Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca who released it publicly on Thursday.

The Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee last week voted to lift a 1,000-student enrollment cap on the statewide voucher program. Initially, vouchers would be available to only 1 percent of the district's total enrollment, and after 10 years there would be no cap.

Barca calls the $800 million estimate "eye popping" and says it could spell the beginning of the end of public education.

Jim Bender, president of pro-voucher group School Choice Wisconsin, discounts the estimate as "just a guess."

Copyright: Associated Press 2015
UPDATED Monday, May 18, 2015---1:02 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Republican co-chair of the Legislature's budget-writing committee says he would like to see funding for public schools increase $75 per student.

Rep. John Nygren told The Associated Press on Monday that Republicans were discussing that idea and others in advance of the Joint Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday to vote on K-12 funding and expanding private school vouchers.

Public school advocates are calling for an increase in funding, and Nygren says that is his goal.

Nygren also says a plan to fashion the voucher program after public school open enrollment "makes some sense." The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates such a move would cost public schools about $48 million over the next two years.

Public school advocates have been calling on lawmakers to increase funding.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press


UPDATED Monday, May 18, 2015---12:12 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker is delivering a keynote address at a national meeting of a group that advocates for private school vouchers, at the same time Wisconsin lawmakers are looking at taking more money away from public schools to expand the state's program.

Walker was slated to talk Monday at the American Federation for Children policy summit in New Orleans. While he's speaking there, Wisconsin lawmakers are meeting privately to discuss ways to pay for eliminating a 1,000-student enrollment cap on the statewide voucher program.

One idea floated last week by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos would create a program similar to open enrollment, at an expected cost to public schools of $48 million over two years.

Public school supporters are urging rejection of the plan.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press


UPDATED Friday, May 15, 2015---3:19 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Public school districts could take a hit if caps are lifted from Wisconsin's voucher school program, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau says.

A Republican proposal that would eliminate the statewide cap on voucher participation and create a program similar to open enrollment that could cost school districts about $48 million over the next two years. Currently the state's cap is 1,000 students.

Similar to open enrollment, students would receive funding from their district of residence to attend a voucher school under the proposal. Voucher students in kindergarten through 8th grade would receive $7,210. High school students would receive $7,856.

Voucher supporters say the program gives students in poor-performing public schools an opportunity to offset the cost of attending a private school.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press


UPDATED Thursday, May 14, 2015---11:39 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction says four new religious private schools will be added to the statewide voucher program starting next year.

The department said Thursday that more than 3,540 students have applied to receive a taxpayer-funded voucher to attend private and religious schools. That number is more than triple the enrollment cap of 1,000 for the statewide program that's in its third year.

The four new schools added to the program next year will be Heritage Christian Schools in Brookfield, Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School in Jackson, Central Wisconsin Christian School in Waupun and Saint James Lutheran School in Shawano.

Of the eligible student applications, 49.3 percent are already paying to attend a private school. If selected to receive a voucher, taxpayers will pay for their education.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The number of students receiving private-school tuition vouchers in Wisconsin is nearing 30,000, making the state a leader when it comes to taxpayer-funded tuition subsidies.

An official state headcount conducted in September determined almost 29,700 students were enrolled in the three voucher programs in Milwaukee, Racine and statewide. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1G9NEJF ) reports enrollment in voucher programs has grown significantly and will likely continue to do so under the leadership of Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature.

State lawmakers plan to prioritize the expansion of a taxpayer-funded tuition voucher for qualifying students who wish to attend private school during the next legislative session beginning in January.

A total of 159 schools, most of them religious, were involved in the voucher programs this fall.

Copyright: Associated Press 2014