A law passed in July that aimed to synchronize and clarify the state’s three Parental Choice programs may have implications for schools looking to merge, consolidate or create additional campuses to gain access to a Choice program.

The law, called Act 59, states that a school entering into an agreement to be subject to the same governing board of a private school that already participates in either the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP) or the Racine Parental Choice Program (RPCP) the previous year, does not have to follow the previous year attendance requirements that typically apply to student eligibility. That exemption could last for the first two years of the agreement.

This provision has some schools talking about mergers in the hopes that many students who otherwise would be denied eligibility for a Parental Choice program will qualify for a voucher. But they would be wrong.

The DPI will be issuing a Bulletin in the coming weeks clarifying this provision, said DPI’s Tricia Collins, Director of School Management Services.

In summary, the new provision only applies to two separate schools, one in a Choice program and another not. The schools must have a formal agreement stating that the new Choice school will be governed by the same governing body as the existing Choice school. The previous year attendance requirement will only be waived for students in the new Choice school, and only for two years.

Under the provision, the new Choice school would have to register and follow the steps of any school looking to participate in either the WPCP or RPCP. The schools remain separate, operated by one governing board. Schools in the Milwaukee program are not eligible to participate.

The provision also does not change the random selection process. Students attending one school do not have preference at the other school as a returning student, nor do siblings have preference.

In addition, if one of the two schools is terminated from the program, all of the governing board members would be disqualified from continued service on the remaining school’s governing board.

If any schools are considering using this provision, they should contact Collins soon so that the department can put the programming into place that would allow for students to apply without the previous year enrollment restriction. Collins can be reached at 608-266-7475.