In Paula Schneider’s letter she disputes facts put forth in a previous letter on the Parental Choice Program, some clarification is in order. The PCP/Voucher program has indeed been expanded, but note more than 90% of the schools planning to participate are religiously affiliated. Also, since the tuition tax deduction has passed and been signed by Walker, the resulting tax cut, as reported by the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office, comes to $240 for each kindergarten through eighth-grade student and $600 for each high school student. Essentially these religious schools will now be subsidized with our tax payer dollars.
Paula states PCP is only available to families at 185% of the poverty level, but according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction FAQ sheet Table 1 – 300% of the Federal Poverty Level for 2013-14 depicts a sliding scale according to Family Size (up to 6 members) with increasing Maximum Yearly Income (up to $95,325).
She further states that religious schools perform better when using standardized testing is true on a single year basis; however when testing is done over a number of years students attending independent private high schools, most types of parochial high schools, and public high schools of choice performed no better on achievement tests in math, reading, science, and history than their counterparts in traditional public high schools.
Lastly, she says that religious schools have to comply with a state-wide accountability system and accreditation. While the granting of WRISA accreditation is fairly straight forward and not too stringent (review of documentation submitted; substantialcompliance with WRISA standards and compliance with all WRISA quality indicators identified as ‘Essential’). Not so the state-wide accountability system portion. The Justice Department has sent a letter to Wisconsin officials declaring that the Badger State hasn’t done enough to protect the rights of students with disabilities who participate in voucher programs. Furthermore, religious schools can turn away “choice” applicants for a variety of reasons, whereas public schools have to accept all students.
John Kocovsky, Hazelhurst