The lifting of the enrollment cap on Wisconsin’s statewide private school voucher program has caused enrollment to more than double, according to figures released Tuesday by the Department of Public Instruction. DPI reported that 2,514 students were enrolled in a voucher school this year, up from 1,008 students last year when the cap was in place.
From the Department of Public Instruction:
On the third Friday in September of the 2015-16 school year, there were 2,514 students receiving a voucher to attend a private school, which translates to 2,472.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) students. In most cases, one student counts as one FTE, but depending on services provided, a 4-year-old kindergarten (K4) student attending a partial day program may be counted as 0.5 FTE or 0.6 FTE. Of the 1,640 new students enrolled in the WPCP for the 2015-16 school year, 19.1 percent (306.1 FTE) attended a public school last year.
While there are 82 private schools or school systems participating in the statewide choice program in the 2015-16 school year, 79 of those schools have enrolled students using a voucher through the WPCP. Changes to state law recently eliminated the previous WPCP cap of 1,000 FTE students. Enrollment in the WPCP voucher program in 2015-16 from a single public school district is limited to 1 percent of the school district’s student population. Enrollment numbers reported are from the student count conducted on the third Friday in September at each school. Student eligibility will be reviewed by independent auditors per state law and submitted to the DPI in December, so enrollment numbers are subject to change.
For the 2015-16 school year, each eligible private school participating in the WPCP may receive a voucher payment of $7,214 per FTE student in grades K4 through eight, or $7,860 per FTE student in grades nine through 12. The WPCP is estimated to cost $18.3 million in 2015-16.
Act 55 (Wisconsin 2015-17 Biennial Budget) changed the manner in which the WPCP is funded. Students that participated in the program prior to the 2015-16 school year will continue to be fully funded from state general purpose revenue. Pupils who begin attending a private school under the WPCP in the 2015-16 school year and thereafter are funded with a reduction to each public school district’s state general aid. If the public school district does not receive an equalization aid payment sufficient to cover the aid reduction, the balance would be reduced from other state aid received by the district. The 142 districts impacted by the WPCP will share an aid reduction of $11.9 million. Incoming pupils in the
WPCP are included in resident public school district’s membership for state general aid purposes, but the resident district may not levy to backfill the aid reduction. School districts receive a non-recurring revenue limit exemption, which the district’s elected school board may include when setting the 2016 tax levy. The exemption is computed by multiplying the number of FTE resident choice pupils by the district’s current year per pupil revenue limit. For 2016, the estimated statewide revenue limit authority for the 142 school districts impacted by the WPCP is $15.8 million.