Superior schools opt out of voucher programThe Superior school district has spent the past five and a half months bracing for the impact of the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, but it now seems the district will have at least a one-year reprieve.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
The Superior school district has spent the past five and a half months bracing for the impact of the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, but it now seems the district will have at least a one-year reprieve.
Cathedral School, one of just three private schools in Superior, announced this week that it will not participate in the school voucher program for the 2013-14 school year.
Cathedral is the largest of Superior’s private schools, enrolling about 200 students in grades K-8. Maranatha Academy has about 60 students in grades K-12, and Twin Ports Baptist School has half that number.
Peggy Schoenfuss, director of Catholic formation for the Diocese of Superior, said the short deadline to apply for the Choice program made it impractical for Cathedral School to try this year.
Maranatha Academy also confirmed Thursday that it has not applied for the voucher program.
Schools interested in participating had until today to file paperwork with the Department of Public Instruction. The application process required the submission of about a dozen forms and a $900 auditor’s fee.
A complete list of schools that applied for the voucher program will be released Wednesday. Parents then have a nine-day window — Aug. 1-9 — to apply for vouchers.
Among Superior residents, interest in the voucher program was mixed, Schoenfuss said.
“There wasn’t an overabundance of individuals in the community that came forward inquiring. Most have just been curious to what it is,” she said. “The next few months will be focused on getting information to those in the community of what the program really is.”
Schoenfuss said Cathedral will look into applying for the 2014-15 school year, when the number of vouchers available statewide doubles to 1,000.
This year’s allotment of 500 vouchers will go to the 25 schools with the most student applications. Each school will get a minimum of 10 seats in the voucher program, and the remaining 250 will be assigned randomly.
No more than one percent of a school district’s student population may participate in the Choice program.
“We certainly don’t think this is the right thing for public education,” said Janna Stevens, superintendent of the Superior school district.
Superior has been fighting the expansion of the Choice program since February.
The school district was among nine districts in the state targeted for the expansion of the program under Gov. Scott Walker’s original budget proposal; however, state legislators modified that item during the budget process to expand the program statewide.
“It’s really a double-edged sword,” Stevens said. “Because it’s statewide, it takes the intense pressure off the nine districts — of which Superior was one — but because it’s now statewide, we have a two-tier system.”
Schools participating in the Parental Choice Program receive taxpayer dollars, but they are not held to the same standards of accountability as public schools, Stevens said.
The Superior school district held a number of informational meetings about school vouchers leading up to the program’s expansion. Moving forward, Stevens said, she hopes to shift the focus back to the district and its accomplishments.
“We’ve got a good quality system,” Stevens said. “We’re going to highlight the incredible things we’re doing.”