Voucher costs

Private school voucher expansion is costing taxpayers in local districts, especially Wausau’s

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The private school voucher expansion has proven costly for districts in north central Wisconsin, to the tune of $875,640.

That’s the 2017-18 cost to districts in state Senate District 29, which covers much of the Wausau metro area. The Wausau School District lost the most of all, giving up $601,976 to the voucher program, according to the Wisconsin Department of Instruction. D.C. Everest lost $175,774, while Medford lost $71,535. Edgar, Marathon City, and Auburndale combined lost $26,355.

The state legislature expanded the voucher program statewide in 2013, and since then the number of private schools registered to receive taxpayer-funded subsidies for tuition has dramatically increased. This year, the state will allocate roughly $270 million in funds for the voucher program.

Jack Stoskopf, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Personnel for D.C. Everest, says school districts are allowed to recoup the funds they lose from private school vouchers through tax levying.

The Wausau district, for example, adds about $0.15 onto its $11.12 mill rate to pay for private school vouchers, says Business Manager Bob Tess. That’s about $15 a year for a home valued at $100,000. In other words, taxpayers are essentially paying for the private school voucher programs. Wausau was hit the hardest largely because several private schools operate within its boundaries.

In the Wausau area, three Newman Catholic Schools and Trinity Lutheran School participate in the statewide voucher program. Trinity Lutheran has been a voucher school for three years now, and Principal Bill Zuelsdorff says there are 30 students this year using a voucher to attend school there, up from 15 three years ago. Zuelsdorff says many of the students who received a voucher in 2015-2016 were already going to the school. Newman representatives didn’t respond to requests for comment.