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Scott Walker proposes expanding voucher school program, raising taxpayer support

Voucher Funding

School Choice Wisconsin 2015-2017 Budget Updates

  • For 2015-16, the estimated voucher amount is $7,222 for grades K-8 and $7,868 for grades 9-12.

  • For 2016-17, the estimated voucher amount is $7,330 for grades K-8 and $7,976 for grades 9-12.

  • The funding model for the new RPCP and WPCP students mimics the public open enrollment model where funding follows the student. That pupil’s allotted equalization aid follows them to their choice school. If the equalization aid does not cover the cost of the voucher, the categorical aid also follows them to their choice school. If these two combined funds do not cover the voucher amount, state GPR funds backfill the remainder.

  • The residency of the student when the application is submitted decides the district whose funds are redirected to the voucher and who gets revenue limit authority. It also determines the district the child is categorized in for percentage of district enrollment counting purposes.

    WPCP Expansion

  • The enrollment cap and the cap on the number of schools are removed. Schools currently in the MPCP or RPCP can participate in the WPCP.

  • Participation in the WPCP is be limited to no more than 1% of a district’s prior year enrollment. Schools must submit to DPI the number of WPCP applicants they received and the number of applicants who are siblings of pupils who have applied. Current voucher students will count towards the 1% district cap.

  • Beginning in 2017-18, the percent cap increases by one percentage point every year until the enrollment limit reaches 10%. After the 10% threshold, the program will be completely uncapped.


For the next two years, DPI will run the lottery and waiting lists for all WPCP schools.

Beginning in 2016-17, preference for all programs is given to pupils according to the following preferences:

o Returning choice students
o Siblings of returning choice students
o Pupils who attended another PCP school;
o Siblings of pupils who attended another PCP school
o Siblings of new choice students who were not in a PCP in the previous


By the 3rd Friday in September, parents must notify DPI via a form provided by the department if their pupil is currently participating in the WPCP and in which year they began participating.

Entry Points

  • WPCP schools may accept students at any grade level and from any type of school for the 2015-16 school year.

  • Beginning in the 2016-17 school year, WPCP applicants must have been enrolled in a public school the year prior, have not been enrolled in school in the year prior, have been enrolled in the choice program already the year prior, or be applying for grades K4, K5, 1, or 9.


  • The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is voided from being the statewide assessment.

  • DPI must review and approve a summative state assessment system beginning in the 2015-16 school year.

  • 9th grade pupils will be tested only in spring, no longer fall and spring.

  • Schools with fewer than 20 choice students are not required to administer

    the state tests.

    Alternative Assessments

  • DPI is required to request a waiver from the federal Department of Education to allow the state to approve 3-5 alternate assessments, with each school being able to select their assessment to administer each year.

  • UW-VARC must research and then approve of 3-5 assessments that are acceptable to be statistically equated to the state assessment. Schools can choose an alternate assessment in lieu of the state assessment.

  • Schools pay the difference between the state exam and the alternate exam if the cost of the alternate exam exceeds the cost of the state exam.

Annually, by January 31, schools must publish information on their school website about the state assessment or alternate assessment.

Civics Assessment

  • Beginning in 2016-17, schools can only grant a high school diploma if a student successfully completes a civics assessment, which is identical to the U.S. Citizenship test. Students must get 60/100 questions correct. Students can retake the assessment as many times as necessary until they receive a passing score. Schools decide the format of the test and when it is administered.

  • Students with IEPs are required to complete the assessment but not required to successfully complete it prior to graduation. Limited-English pupils can take the test in their language of choice.

  • Schools are required to periodically review and revise their written policy specifying criteria for granting a high school diploma.

    Report Card

  • Beginning with the report card in 2015-16, all types of schools will be graded on the same criteria.

  • Achievement and improvement is categorized by ELP disability, income level, and race or ethnicity.

  • Growth is measured using value-added methodology.

  • Gap closures in achievement are measured in reading and math, and when

    available graduation rates.

  • Rates of attendance or high school graduation added as a report card


  • New 1-5 star rating system for achievement and improvement.

  • The length of time a student has been attending a school or school districts

    serves as a multiplier for weighting pupil assessment. Due to this measure, certain students’ data will not count towards the report card grade (e.g. less than 1 FAY, new 9th grade transfers from public school).

  • The impact of poverty on pupil achievement and growth is measured and determines the weight of achievement v. growth on the report card.

  • Private schools in the choice program are given the option of having an all- pupil grade on their report card in addition to the choice pupil grade.

  • Annually every school must provide a copy of its accountability report and list of educational options to parents of pupils enrolled in the school.

  • Beginning with 2017-18 and biennially thereafter, the appropriate standing committee in each house will review the accountability reports.


  • Eliminates the FIR and replaces it with the non-profit industry standard, GAAP audit, effective next summer.

  • Moves due date of audit from September 1st to October 15th.

  • Eliminates “lesser of” language, so schools receive full voucher amount and are not required to return unused funds each year; instead, those funds are

    tracked in a Choice reserve account. If the school would close, any unused

    funds would be returned to the state at that time.

  • Definition of eligible education expenses more broadly defined, including

    fundraising and before/after school care.

  • Starting in a school’s 2nd year in the program, the GAAP audit’s management

    letter should be sent to DPI along with the actual audit.

  • Provides for deviations from GAAP methodology to address school’s long-

    term assets acquired in the past. The BUC is eliminated.

  • School can choose if audit is for entire organization (e.g. church/school) or only the school operating unit; if auditing entire org, the auditor uses their

    professional judgment to allocate shared assets, liabilities and expenses.

  • During the fall audit of fiscal and internal controls, the independent auditor reviews any concerns raised in the summer GAAP audit management letter

    (a negative choice reserve balance is not alone reason for concern of financial


  • Independent auditor prepares a report for DPI if a school has not taken

    remedial actions within the previous year to address any concerns in the

    management letter above.

  • If a Choice Reserve grows to >50% of choice funding from previous year, the

    school board must show a plan for eventually spending it. (I.e. Unused voucher funds can’t just build up indefinitely without some plan for spending them.)

  • DPI must certify the financial audit within 90 days.

  • DPI is limited to one written communication with the auditor regarding only

    a material concern (>1% of Choice funding from previous year) within 90

    days from submittal date.

  • Auditor must respond to DPI’s request for information within 15 days.

School Eligibility Requirements

  • The provision requiring schools participating in the WPCP to have been in operation on May 1, 2013 is sunsetted out after the 2016-17 school year. After that, brand new schools will be eligible to apply to the program.

  • WPCP schools are no longer required to submit an occupancy permit to DPI in order to participate in the program.

  • Schools can now maintain pupil applications and correspondences electronically. Schools are required to maintain this documentation for at least five years, rather than indefinitely.

Teacher and Administrator Requirements

  • PCP schools can employ teachers’ aides who have been granted a homeschool high school diploma.

  • A DPI-issued teaching license or a bachelor’s degree from a nationally or regionally accredited institution is acceptable for a PCP teacher or administrator.

    Milwaukee Choice Research Program

  • Qualified independent researches are allowed to use publically collected data to evaluate the effects of the MPCP.

  • Agencies cannot charge a fee to the researchers greater than the cost incurred by the agencies for providing the data.

    Participation in Athletics and Extra-Curricular Activities

  • Contingent on adequate academic performance, public school board must allow a pupil who resides in the school district to participate in interscholastic athletics or extracurricular activities if the pupil is homeschooled.

  • Participation fees can be charged. Miscellaneous

  • The Intent to Participate form deadline is moved from February 1st to January 10th.

  • Choice school reporting due August 1st. This report must include the number of choice student who began participating in the 2015-2016 and subsequent school years, and those who began participating prior to 2015-2016.

  • Removes school reporting due August 1st that included the number of choice pupils who graduated and those who advanced from 4th grade to 5th grade, and 8th grade to 9th grade.

  • Summer school report due to DPI by October 1st rather than October 15th and requires schools to report attendance for each day of summer school.

  • PAC meeting is eliminated.

  • “The “once in, always in” income provision is extended to apply to pupils moving between different PCPs (i.e. treated as continuing students).

Special Needs Voucher Program

  • Optional, beginning in 2016-17.

  • The Special Education Voucher Program is completely separate from the

    PCPs, with a separate application process.

  • Only for students with IEPs who have been attending a public school for the

    previous year and who have been rejected from attending at least one school through the open enrollment program for the same year they are seeking to use the Special Needs Voucher.

  • No income requirement.

  • $12,000 voucher in 2016-17.

  • Surety bond required if school receives at least $50,000 in Special Needs


    Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program

  • Nonsectarian, non-profit, Choice schools are able to participate in the Opportunity and Partnership Program, if chosen in the request-for-proposal process.

  • 1-3 schools chosen for the program in 2016-17 & 2017-18; not more than 5 additional schools in subsequent years.

  • A school’s performance on the state report card for the previous 3 years must exceed that of the school they seek to manage. 


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