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Aquinas to participate in voucher program

Published On: Dec 24 2013 02:13:56 AM CST
Updated On: Aug 16 2013 09:44:21 AM CDT

WKBT, News8000.com

LA CROSSE, WI -

Aquinas Catholic Schools has been admitted into the voucher program, along with 24 other schools or school systems.

Forty-eight private and religious schools or school systems wanted to accept voucher students starting in the fall, but enrollment is capped at 500 students. As previously reported, if more than 500 apply, only the 25 with the most applicants will be allowed into the program.

The DPI said parents and guardians submitted applications for 2,415 students to attend the 48 schools that wanted to participate in the statewide voucher program. The top 25 schools had 2,069 eligible students apply to be in the program. DPI said of those students, 76-percent did not attend a Wisconsin public school last year and 24-percent were from public schools. Of the eligible students, 67-percent attended a private school last year.

The Wisconsin Parental Choice Program is limited to 500 students for the 2013-14 school year. State law requires the department to conduct a random drawing of eligible student applications and allocate 10 seats to each of the 25 schools and then fill the remaining 250 seats randomly, according to DPI.

Schools must submit documentation of their certificate of occupancy and meet program financial requirements by September 1.

President of the Aquinas Catholic Schools in La Crosse, Dr. Kurt Nelson said he's thrilled to be picked as part of the voucher program.

"It's tremendously exciting," said Nelson. "We start in two weeks, so there's already excitement builing in the schools and this really has added to excitement. Our staff and principals and teachers are excited and ready to welcome these new students."

But how many of them will actually be new?

Nelson said of the 100 applications they received, three-quarters are from families already in the Aquinas system.

That number is similar to the total state applicants, 67-percent attended a private school last year.

It's a main reason the superintendent of the La Crosse School District Randy Nelson is concerned the program isn't doing it's job.

"The idea behind this is to provide more choice for public school students to move to the private schools. What's really happened more than anything else, is those who are currently in private schools have chosen to extend their vouchers and use the dollars more than other students," said Nelson.

But Kurt Nelson said even though many of the applicants are currently in the system, the voucher dollars will ensure they keep the ability to choose to send their kids to a private school.

"We also experience constantly families who start and are unable to continue because as these costs continue to build, they can do it for a couple of years and then it's too much," said Nelson. "Now, they have that choice and they can continue to exercise that choice all the way through high school graduation."

Next week the DPI will contact the families who will receive the vouchers.

That's also when Aquinas schools will know how many students will actually be receiving those funds.

Here's the 25 private schools or school systems, and number of applicants for the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program:

Saint Francis Xavier Catholic School System: 193
Regis Catholic Schools: 120
Lourdes Academy: 113
Green Bay Area Catholic Education-East: 110
Assumption Catholic Schools: 109
Stevens Point Area Catholic Schools: 106
Rock County Christian School: 102
Aquinas Catholic Schools: 100
Saint Joseph Catholic Academy: 100
Friedens Lutheran School: 95
Valley Christian School: 95
Newman Catholic Schools: 94
Saint Francis of Assisi School: 93
McDonnell Area Catholic Schools: 88
Columbus Catholic Schools: 83
Notre Dame de la Baie Academy: 82
Roncalli High School: 65
Green Bay Area Catholic Education-South: 64
Saint Mary's Springs Academy: 64
Green Bay Area Catholic Education-West: 62
Sheboygan Christian School: 59
Saint John Lutheran School: 42
Sheboygan Area Lutheran High School: 42
Immanuel Lutheran School-Wisconsin Rapids: 40
Lighthouse Christian School: 31

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