Vouchers will be pursued
Trinity Lutheran will be second Athens school in state program
Dean Frick, Trinity Lutheran School principal, said Monday the school is moving forward with its plans to participate in the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP) at the beginning of the 202021 school year.
Frick said Trinity Lutheran School intends to submit an application to the state before an early January of 2020 deadline to participate in the (WPCP) next school year.
“We are unsure how many vouchers our students could get,” Frick said. “Athens is one of three school districts in the state that is currently at the cap of vouchers allowed per school district, which is currently at 4 percent of the school district’s enrollment. The cap goes up to 5 percent next year, which means there may be one or two additional vouchers available for Athens students. We are hoping to draw vouchers from other districts outside the Athens School District, which are not at their district caps.”
Dan Rossmiller, government relation’s director for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB), said 4 percent of the Athens School District’s enrollment of 415 students in the 2018 19 school year results in 17 voucher students allowed in the school district during the 2019-20 school year. Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) data shows St. Anthony’s Catholic School in Athens has 20 voucher students this school year, which is the first time it’s participating in WPCP. Therefore, any voucher students past the cap of 17 are coming to St. Anthony’s from other communities.
“This enrollment limit will increase by 1 percentage point each year until it reaches 10 percent in the 2025-26 school year,” Rossmiller said. “Beginning in the 2026-27 school year, no enrollment limit will apply.”
The Athens Board of Education approved an 18 percent increase in the school district’s tax levy in 2019-20 on Oct. 28. Jeff Mastin, Athens schools superintendent, said the school district needed to increase property taxes this year to pay $153,000 in tuition for students attending St. Anthony’s Catholic School.
Rossmiller said the Athens School Board, along with others in the state, are faced with a tough choice.
“It could either raise property taxes in an amount equal to the state aid that was deducted or it can accept the loss of state aid and decide what programs or staff it wishes to cut,” he said. “Most school boards are unwilling to simply accept the cut in state aid so they raise property taxes to make up for the lost state aid. It’s a very awkward situation for a school board to be in by having to raise property taxes to pay for the costs of students who are not enrolled in the public school, but that’s the situation many school boards find themselves in as the results of vouchers.”
Dr. Greg Kaster, principal at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Stratford, said the school hired Justin Fayas as its parental choice coordinator this school year. Fayas is completing the necessary paperwork for St. Joseph’s Catholic School to apply to participate in the Wisconsin Private School Choice Program, beginning in the 2020-21 school year.
Jeff Gulan, principal at St. John’s Catholic School in Edgar, said the school is participating in the (WPCP) for the first time this school year.
Joseph Koch, principal at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Marathon, said the school is currently not participating in the (WPCP).
“Annually, we review whether joining this program is right for St. Mary’s and we have decided we will not be joining the program in the 2020-21 school year,” Koch said.