RACINE — Student enrollment in Racine’s school choice voucher program more than doubled from the last school year to the current one, as a cap on the number of possible program students disappeared.
That increasing enrollment is the No. 9 top local story of 2013, as determined by Journal Times newsroom staff. Top local stories were chosen based on news value and impact, without consideration given to whether the impact was positive or negative.
Vouchers let low- to middle-income students attend private schools using state taxpayer dollars to pay tuition.
A voucher program began in Racine for the 2011-12 school year. At that time, student enrollment was capped at 250 full-time-equivalent students; most kids count as one FTE but some, such as 4-year-old kindergartners, can count as only 0.5 FTEs or 0.6 FTEs.
That first school year, 228 students took advantage of 212.8 FTE vouchers at eight participating private schools. The next school year, when the cap grew by 250 FTEs to 500 total FTEs, 520 students used 499.1 FTE vouchers at 11 schools, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.
This school year, with the cap gone, 1,245 students are using 1,183.2 FTE vouchers at 13 schools, DPI data show.
The increase has some voucher schools expanding and looking for bigger buildings. And it has Racine Unified working on ways to retain students and the per-pupil funding they bring, perhaps through better marketing and more niche programming.