FAQ FOR SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS

resources for choice schools

Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to the FAQ page for school personnel! Whether you are new to the school choice program or a seasoned administrator, there is a lot of information to process on a regular basis. This page answers the most common questions we hear from schools. If you don’t find what you need, give us a call at (414) 319-9160 and we’ll be happy to answer any additional questions you have. Follow us on Facebook for school choice updates and news.

school choice administrator help

Q: Who is School Choice Wisconsin?

A: Founded in 2004, School Choice Wisconsin is the lead organization working to advance school choice opportunities in Wisconsin. Staffed by experts in government relations and school operations, School Choice Wisconsin:

  • Works with legislators to expand and improve Wisconsin’s school choice programs.
  • Works with the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to insure private and religious schools are protected from burdensome regulations.
  • Works directly with private and religious schools to maximize their participation in school choice programs and to assist them with program compliance.

Q: How does School Choice Wisconsin help schools that are interested in learning more about participating in one of Wisconsin’s parental choice programs?

A: Administrators who have considered bringing choice to their schools often consider School Choice Wisconsin their go-to partner or “help desk” as they learn more about the school choice program in this state. We can help you with questions like:

  • How do Wisconsin’s private and religious school choice programs function?
  • How do schools apply to the program?
  • How do families apply to the program?
  • What are the statutory, regulatory and financial requirements?
  • What is the dollar value of each voucher?
  • How do we market our school to parents and the community?
  • What do we need to know that we don’t know to ask?

Q: How can School Choice Wisconsin assist with questions from board members or parents about the school choice program?

A: School Choice Wisconsin is available to meet at your school to help educate your school leadership, parents, faculty, staff, school boards, and congregations. Call us at 414-319-9160.

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student information system

Q: If we are interested in getting more information about private school choice, should we notify the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI)?

A: Schools should register to receive more information at the following website here.

Q: Must schools have a DPI-compliant Student Information System (SIS) in place to participate in school choice?

A: Yes. Schools participating in the MPCP, RPCP or WPCP must have in place a student information system (SIS) that complies with DPI reporting requirements for the state-issued private school report card.

  • SIS vendors that have completed compliance testing with DPI are listed here.
  • SIS-required data elements for WPCP schools are listed here.
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limits on number of schools

Q: How many schools may participate in the MPCP, RPCP, WPCP and SNSP?

A: There are no limits on the number of schools that may participate in Wisconsin’s parental choice programs.

Q: Which schools are eligible to participate in Wisconsin’s school choice programs?

A: Most private or religious schools in Wisconsin are eligible to participate. Registration requirements and deadlines differ based on whether your school is considered a “new private school” or an “existing private school”. Contact School Choice Wisconsin with any questions regarding participation.

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state exam requirements

Q: What are the required hours of instruction at each grade level? 

A: 4K: 437 hours of direct pupil instruction. 5K: 1,050 hours of direct pupil instruction for a full-time student. Grades 1-6: 1,050 hours of direct pupil instruction. Grades 7-12: 1,137 hours of direct pupil instruction.

Please note that schools that only offer 4K and 5K are required to provide 875 hours of direct pupil instruction in accordance with standard private school hours requirements.

Q: Are teachers required to hold bachelor’s degrees?

A: Yes. All teachers must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Teacher’s aides must have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Q: What are the program testing requirements?

A: In 2021 – 2022, schools with 20 or more students participating in any of Wisconsin’s parental choice programs must administer the state examinations to participating students in the same grades and subject areas as Wisconsin’s public school students, as follows:

  • Wisconsin Forward Exam for English Language Arts and Mathematics assessments in the spring for grades 3‑8.
  • Wisconsin Forward Exam for Science in the spring for grades 4 and 8.
  • Wisconsin Forward Exam for Social Studies in the spring for grades 4, 8, and 10.
  • ACT Aspire™ in spring for grades 9 and 10
  • The ACT® and ACT WorkKeys® in the spring for grade 11
  • The state civics exam in high school.

In addition:

  • Schools may administer other standardized tests in addition to the required state test.
  • The DPI pays the cost of state testing for students that participate in one of Wisconsin’s school choice programs. Schools may choose to administer the state test to “non-voucher” (private pay tuition) students, but those costs are the responsibility of the school.
  • Schools must submit standardized test scores to DPI and to parents of current students, as well as to all program applicants who request them.
  • Schools will be required to place a link to their DPI-issued school report card on the homepage of their school website.
  • Parents may opt their children out of state testing.

Q: Are schools required to participate in the federal free and reduced price lunch program?

A: No.

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voucher program costs

Q: How does a school verify income documentation?

A: Students continuing in the program do not need to submit income information. Schools only need to verify the income of new applicants. See the DPI bulletin “Income Documentation”.

Q: When do schools receive payments? A:

  • Schools receive four equal payments at the end of September, November, February, and May.
  • The first two payments are generated by the third Friday in September enrollment count.
  • The last two payments are generated by the second Friday in January enrollment count.

Q: Can schools charge tuition in addition to the program payment? A:

  • Tuition for new students may not be charged in addition to the program payment.
  • If family income rises above 220 percent of federal poverty levels in subsequent years, high school students may be charged additional tuition.
  • For more information, please consult the DPI bulletin “Student Tuition and Fees” .

Q: Can a school collect fees from a student in the choice program? A:

  • Yes, as follows: A private school may charge a choice student reasonable fees for personal items such as towels, room and board, gym clothes or uniforms, social and extracurricular activities if the activity is not a part of the required curriculum, musical instruments, meals, and high school classes not required or credited for graduation.
  • A choice student may not be charged a fee for registration or application to the choice program, books, teacher salaries, buildings, maintenance, equipment, computers, and any other fee directly related to the required curriculum such as field trips.
  • For more information please consult the DPI bulletin “Student Tuition and Fees” .

Q: What are the estimated costs for first-year schools? A:

  • $10-15K for audit cost annually.
  • $600 application fee annually.
  • The cost of a student information system if you don’t already have one: ~$2,500 startup costs and $10 per student per annum (only parental choice program students must participate)

Q: What are the time commitments for first-year schools? A: 

Finance:

  • 40 hours budget preparation
  • 8 hour budget training
  • 40 hours audit preparation

Administration: Up to 20 students

  • 20 hours to prepare application forms
  • 20 hours to complete student applications
  • 20 hours of reports due throughout the year
  • A good principal/secretary/parent volunteer team can handle this initially
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school voucher acceptance

Q: Can parents opt their children out of religious instruction and activities? A:

  • Yes, parents can choose to opt their children out of formal religious instruction and worship.
  • Most schools do not receive such requests.
  • Religious schools should still remain true to their mission and culture and they may continue to inspire their curriculum with the teachings and values of their faith. Schools may display symbols of their faith in hallways and classrooms, pray together at the beginning of class or before meals, and all other actions that affirm their belief and traditions.

Q: Can schools suspend or expel students that violate school policies and procedures? A:

  • Yes. State law requires schools participating in Wisconsin’s school choice programs to have policies and procedures in place and published in handbooks that regulate suspensions and expulsions.
  • The school’s handbooks and written policies should be explicit as to student responsibilities, expectations, and causes for disciplinary action, including suspension and expulsion.
  • Once a student is enrolled and accepted in the school, he or she is bound by school policies and procedures including suspension or expulsion.
  • Parents and older students should sign a document stating that they have read the handbooks and policies, understand them, and will abide by them. This document forms a contract between the school and the parent/student.
  • A school must supply parents with a copy of its handbooks, including the procedures the school has in place for imposition or appeal of suspensions or expulsions.

Q: Are schools required to provide transportation? A:

  • No. Schools are not required to provide transportation to students participating in choice programs.
  • If the school chooses to provide transportation, a fee may be charged.
  • In certain situations, the district is obligated to provide transportation to the student or enter into a contract with parents to reimburse for transportation costs.

Q: Are schools required to accept special needs students? A:

  • Schools must accept any student with a voucher that meets income eligibility and residency requirements. Schools are not permitted to select students with a voucher based on any other factors.
  • Once a child is admitted, the private school is only required to offer those services assisting students with special needs that it can provide with minor adjustments. Private schools should work with their school districts, which have the legal responsibility to provide services to special needs children in private schools.

Q: Are religious schools exempt from Title IX provisions that conflict with faith? A:

  • Title IX only applies to institutions that receive federal financial assistance from the U.S. DOE. Private elementary and secondary schools whose students or teachers receive equitable services under federal education programs are not considered to be ‘recipients of federal financial assistance.’ (Council for American Private Education)
  • 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681–1688; 34 C.F.R. Pt. 106; 28 C.F.R. Pt. 54. In this [Dear Colleague] letter, the term “schools” refers to recipients of Federal financial assistance at all educational levels, including school districts, colleges, and universities. An educational institution that is controlled by a religious organization is exempt from Title IX to the extent that compliance would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization. 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a)(3); 34 C.F.R. § 106.12(a).

Q: Can a school require fundraising and volunteer services of the Choice parent? 

A: No. A school may not impose any penalties on a parent or child in the choice program for failure to engage in fundraising (which would include any required service to the school). Schools may ask all parents if they would voluntarily assist their child’s school. For more information, please consult the DPI bulletin “Student Tuition and Fees”.

For parent FAQs and more school choice information, visit the School Choice Toolkit main page.

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