A Look at Voucher Funding in 2016-17

We often get questions about voucher funding. This post looks specifically at how vouchers are funded in the state’s three voucher programs–Milwaukee, Racine & Statewide for the upcoming 2016-17 school year. (We’ll cover how special needs vouchers, independent charters and open enrollment are funded in future posts.)

For all three voucher programs—Milwaukee, Racine & Statewide – the payments to voucher schools will be identical in 2016-17. Voucher schools in all three program will receive a state payment equal to $7,323 for each voucher student in grades K-8 and $7,969 for each voucher student in grades 9-12.

Now for the differences:

Milwaukee (MPCP): For all students in the MPCP, the state will pay 74.4 percent of the voucher amount and the rest (25.6 percent) will come from reducing state general aid that would otherwise be payable to the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). MPS is allowed to levy property taxes to make up for the lost aid, but may not count voucher pupils in its revenue limit or state aid calculation. By law, MPS is required to use the High Poverty Aid it receives to reduce its property tax levy.

Racine (RCPC):  For students in the RCPC who participated in the program prior to the 2015-16 school year, the state will pay the full amount of the voucher payment. These students are not counted by the Racine Unified School District (RUSD) in its revenue limit or state aid calculation.  The voucher payments for these students are paid from state general purpose revenue (GPR), which comes mainly from state income and sales taxes.

For students in the RCPC who began participating in the program in the 2015-16 school year or later, the voucher payments are funded by transferring state aid away from RUSD and to the participating voucher school in which each voucher pupil is enrolled in an amount equal to the voucher payment for that student.   RUSD is allowed a nonrecurring revenue limit exemption for the amount of aid lost, which allows the RUSD Board the option to levy an amount up to the amount of the exemption, but does not require the RUSD Board to do so. If the board does not levy this amount, under revenue limits, the lost aid represents a cut to the district’s budget.  Voucher students who began participating in the program in the 2015-16 school year or later are counted in RUSD’s revenue limit and state aid calculation, although there is a one-year delay before any of these students generate any aid for the district.

Statewide (WPCP):  For students in the WPCP who participated in the program prior to the 2015-16 school year, the state will pay the full amount of the voucher payment. These students are not counted by their resident school district for revenue limit or state aid purposes.   The voucher payments for these students are paid from state GPR, which comes mainly from state income and sales taxes.

For students in the WPCP who began participating in the program in the 2015-16 school year or later, the voucher payments are funded by transferring state aid away from the district in which the student resides and to the participating voucher school in which the student is enrolled in an amount equal to the voucher payment for that student.  The voucher student’s resident school district is allowed a nonrecurring revenue limit exemption for the amount of aid lost, which gives the school board of the district in which the student resides the option to levy an amount up to the amount of the exemption, but does not require the resident district’s board to do so.  Again, if the board does not levy this amount, under revenue limits the lost aid represents a cut to the district’s budget. Voucher students who began participating in the WPCP in the 2015-16 school year or later are counted in the revenue limit and state aid calculation of their school district of residence, although there is a one-year delay before any of these students generate any aid for the district.