Schools participating in the parental choice programs are held accountable by regulations and procedures legally required by the Department of Public Instruction, and more importantly parents. EdChoice (formerly known as the Friedman Foundation for Educational Excellence) released a report in May of 2014 entitled, Public Rules on Private Schools: Measuring the Regulatory Impact of State Statutes and School Choice Programs which deemed the MPCP the most regulated school choice program in the country.
Additionally, stricter guidelines are in place for first time, “start-up” schools looking to participate in the program. In the early years, it was too easy for new start-up schools to join the program, resulting in many compliance-related terminations. Since 2013, Act 237 requires new schools to follow a longer timeline, and no new schools have been terminated from the program since its passage.
Financial transparency is required of schools participating in the parental choice programs through an independent GAAP audit. Schools must submit detailed budgets, prove financial viability, and attend fiscal training sessions prior to joining the program. Each year, schools are required to undergo this audit in order to show how voucher dollars are being spent and to make sure that the money is going toward educational expenses only. Schools must attest for every penny for every child, every year.
Schools participating in the program must also attain accreditation by an independent agency or obtain preaccreditation prior to joining the program. Accreditation requires schools to have degreed or licensed teachers, appropriate curriculum, accountable board governance, maintenance of student records, and a school environment conducive to learning. Choice schools must also have valid occupancy permits, offer the same number of hours of instruction as public schools, abide by the same health and safety requirements as public schools, and comply with non-discrimination provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (i.e. race, color, or national origin).
If at any time DPI finds that a school in the program is not abiding by these regulations, the school can have its funds withheld until compliance is met or be immediately terminated from the program.