A free, private education could become a reality for some families in the La Crosse area.
The Aquinas Catholic School system has applied to participate in the Wisconsin Parental Choice program, known to many as school vouchers.
Beginning next Thursday, families can apply to use taxpayer dollars to pay for their tuition if the Aquinas Catholic school system is chosen by the state to receive the vouchers.
The president of the system says there are a number of reasons why they decided to be a part of the state-wide voucher program, but there is one reason that stands out. "The most important reason is a matter of justice to families in our area. Whether they're families that are currently making great sacrifices to attend our schools. But we also know from talking to the families in the area that would be interested in an education at Aquinas Catholic Schools, but they know there are extra funds required and tuition and even with financial aid that becomes a huge hurdle for a lot of families," said Kurt Nelson.
The superintendent of the La Crosse School District says one of the fears surrounding the voucher program among public school districts is the potential for creating two publicly funded school systems.
As of now, the school voucher program has many limitations as to who qualifies and which private schools can offer the vouchers. But public school officials are preparing for those restrictions to be lifted across the state.
"It's really after the first 2 years that I think it could have a hugely substantial impact on the state of Wisconsin. I think what we have to assume after the first 2 years is all of those restrictions, all of these little levers will likely come off. Even the governor, as this was coming to fruition in the legislature that the real goal was to get this state-wide, put some limitations on it and then in time remove those limitations. We just don't know what in-time means," said La Crosse Superintendent Randy Nelson.
The La Crosse superintendent says funding two school systems with public dollars would come with a huge expense.
There are approximately 90,000 students who attend private schools in Wisconsin. It would cost about 500 million dollars for the state to pay for all of those students to attend school.
If your family is interested in applying for a school voucher, the window to apply runs from August first to August 9th.
You can find information at choice.aquinascatholicschools.org.