Private Schools, Families Rushing to Apply for Voucher Expansion - WBAY

Private Schools, Families Rushing to Apply for Voucher Expansion

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Private schools across Wisconsin hoping to be part of the statewide school voucher expansion this fall have to apply by Friday afternoon with the Department of Public Instruction.

Then between August 1-9, interested families must apply.

Next fall, 500 students will be accepted for a select number of schools.

It's a short application window with a lot of ramifications.

Over the past few weeks, private schools across Northeast Wisconsin have become part educator, part marketer.

"This is our primary wing," St. Bernard's Catholic School Principal Kay Franz said to a parent on a recent tour in Green Bay.

Carly Clavel is interested in receiving a school voucher if St. Bernard's qualifies.

"My daughter would actually be transferring from a public school," she told administrators.

While these types of school tours aren't new, these vouchers questions are.

"I would say it's a spring because you're really rushing to get everything in place," Franz said.

Private schools are sending email blasts, calling prospective parents and even buying ads on the radio.

"We need to do everything possible to make it easier for them," Bob Biebel said, president of Lourdes Academy in Oshkosh.

Most likely only the top 25 schools or systems, with the most student applications, will get in this fall.

"We also want to make sure word of mouth kicks in as well," Ray DuBois said, president of St. Francis Xavier Catholic School System in Appleton. "Because I think that's certainly going to go a long way to bringing in some new interest."

Some homepages advertise free private school tuition.

Other Facebook pages detail their meetings.

And gyms over the past week fill up with interested parents.

"I would just basically like to find out more about exactly what it is," Stacy Bohnart said at a recent meeting in Green Bay.

As parents ask questions, state and school officials rush to figure out the details of a program passed as part of state budget.

"There's a lot of pressure to try getting as many students to apply as possible for these vouchers," Bob Beehner said, director of administration for St. Francis of Assisi Schools in Manitowoc.

No one knows for sure how many schools or students will apply.

Administrators believe the interest is there.

"I've probably had 20 families in the last four days say they can't make the meetings, how do I get the information?" Biebel said.

Thus the incentive to market current and prospective parents.

"The only risk is having a number of people applying for one of the very, very limited voucher spots and feeling if they don't make it, or as a school system we don't make it, there may be some of that tendency -- why did we do all this?" DuBois said. "We did it for nothing. I don't believe, even if that's the case, I don't believe it will have been for nothing."

Another aspect to this is income limits set by the legislature, the maximum families can make to qualify.

Click here for the 2013-14 income limits.

Each application will be verified by the school and state and families will have to prove their income.

During the application period some schools are planning to open up computer labs, others are scheduling meetings with parents.

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