UPDATE: 48 private schools register for WI Parental Choice - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: 48 private schools register for WI Parental Choice Program

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MADISON (WKOW) -- 48 private schools have registered to be part of the Wisconsin Parental School Choice program for the 2013-14 school year.

Two of those schools are in Dane County: Lighthouse Christian School of Madison and Westside Christian School in Middleton.  Rock County Christian School, with campuses in Beloit and Janesville, has also registered.

Starting tomorrow, parents can go to a website set up by the Department of Public Instruction and apply to get a voucher for one of the registered schools.

Lighthouse Christian is the only bilingual private elementary school in Madison and its principal says half the parents who send their kids there would qualify for taxpayer-funded vouchers.

"We definitely wanted to get right on this so that they would all have the opportunity to get a free education right here at this school," said Principal Tia Sierra, who also teaches at the school.

Parents who qualify can receive up to $6,442 per year in aid for each eligible child, which would cover the tuition at Lighthouse Christian.

Pastor Sierra says she's surprised no other Madison schools registered for the first year of expanded choice, but hopes that will help attract more applications and more revenue for her school.

"We'd love to be able to have smart boards and the newest computers and really provide the best academic experience we can for our kids," said Pastor Sierra.

"I can't imagine that parents want to send their children to schools not knowing that they're going to receive an education in a safe building by people who've had background checks and are licensed and prepared to teach their children," said Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Cross Plains).

Pope and other Assembly Democrats caucused Wednesday afternoon to work on a legislative package aimed at making sure the new choice schools meet all of the same academic and safety standards as public schools.

"They aren't all established private schools where we know what's going on and we can trust that the education that is being given is equivalent to public schools.  We need to be able to know that," said Rep. Pope.

Pastor Sierra says Lighthouse Christian would welcome higher expectations.

"I think its a good thing if we had to meet all the same requirements because it just pushes us to be better at what we're doing," said Pastor Sierra.

The Parental Choice Program allows students whose family income is below 185 percent of the federal poverty level and who reside outside of the Milwaukee and Racine Unified school districts to use a taxpayer-funded voucher to attend participating private schools with no charge for tuition.

The income guidelines allow a family of four making $43,752 annually to qualify, with a $7,000 increase ($50,752) allowed for married parents with two children. The private school, on behalf of each student's parent or guardian, receives a state aid payment of up to $6,442 for each eligible choice student.

If more than 500 students apply for the statewide voucher program in August, only the 25 schools with the most applications will be allowed to participate.

The application period for the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program opens on Thursday and will run until 4:00 p.m. on August 9th.

It can be completed by clicking here.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- 48 private schools have registered to be part of the Wisconsin Parental School Choice program for the 2013-14 school year.

Two of those schools are in Dane County: Lighthouse Christian School of Madison and Westside Christian School in Middleton.  Rock County Christian School, with campuses in Beloit and Janesville, has also registered.

The Parental Choice Program allows students whose family income is below 185 percent of the federal poverty level and who reside outside of the Milwaukee and Racine Unified school districts to use a taxpayer-funded voucher to attend participating private schools with no charge for tuition.

The income guidelines allow a family of four making $43,752 annually to qualify, with a $7,000 increase ($50,752) allowed for married parents with two children. The private school, on behalf of each student's parent or guardian, receives a state aid payment of up to $6,442 for each eligible choice student.

If more than 500 students apply for the statewide voucher program in August, only the 25 schools with the most applications will be allowed to participate.

Parents who want to enroll their children in a participating school must complete an online application between Aug. 1 and 9.

Interested parents can find the application form here.

The Parental Choice Program expansion from Milwaukee and Racine to the rest of the state was included in the 2013-15 state budget Gov. Scott Walker signed into law in June.

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