When the second year of Wisconsin’s private school voucher program gets underway this fall, six new private religious schools will be able to accept students using taxpayer funded vouchers. The state Department of Public Instruction says those schools were among those who submitted the most applications this spring, following an open enrollment period. More than 3,400 students applied to attend private schools using vouchers for the school year starting next fall.
The schools being added next fall are in in Appleton, Bonduel, Neenah-Menasha, Sheboygan, and Fond du Lac, bringing the total number of schools participating in the statewide voucher program to 31.
School Choice Wisconsin President Jim Bender says the numbers show that “from all corners of the state, there’s demand for the program.” Although he also laments the fact that the program is capped at 1,000 students for the upcoming school year. While it’s double the amount of students allowed last fall, Bender says “there’s still 3,000 parents that are out there on the outside looking in.”
Critics note that 75 percent of the students applying for vouchers this spring already attend a private school, which they say shows the program is essentially a tax-funded giveaway to private schools. Scot Ross with One Wisconsin Now says the latest data shows the program allows Republicans to appease “the ideological millionaires and billionaires that fund their campaigns and who want to privatize our schools.”
Bender calls that argument “silly.” He says opening the program only to current public school students still would have seen the state exceed the enrollment caps established by the Legislature.