Schools awaiting Friday's School Choice Program announcement

MADISON (WITI) -- Schools in the state of Wisconsin are awaiting a big announcement from the state's Department of Public Instruction, regarding whether they will be selected to participate in the School Choice Program. The top 25 schools in the state will be announced on Friday.

48 schools are in a competition to be admitted into the School Choice Program.

Several schools in the Milwaukee area, like Hillel Academy in Fox Point, Mary Queen of Saints in West Allis and Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha are vying for spots, and only 25 schools will get in.

"It's a little bit of a roller coaster, because some days we think 'aw, we'll never be among the top 25,' the way the math might work between grade school versus high school -- between cities like Janesville or Green Bay versus Waukesha, so some days we think we'll easily be a part of this because of the quality education we offer," Catholic Memorial President Father Paul Hartmann said.

Father Hartmann says the school wasn't expecting to be allowed to apply for the School Choice Program, but when Gov. Scott Walker's final budget opened School Choice to all of the state's school districts, Hartmann went to drive interest in the Waukesha school.

"We are working with our community, our 26 supporting parishes, the community groups here in the city of Waukesha to make it better known how to go through the online application process," Father Hartmann said.

The School Choice Program allows parents to subsidize private educations with public money or vouchers, and some critics say the program operates at the expense of the public schools.

"Rapid expansion of the voucher system just isn`t warranted," state Superintendent Tony Evers said.

The budget created caps on enrollment -- 500 students this year, and 1,000 next year.

"You`re going to have demand that far exceeds supply, and there`s going to be issues matching those two up, because it won`t fit," Jim Bender with School Choice Wisconsin said.

The state Department of Public Instruction will select the 25 schools with the most applications on Friday, August 9th.

Anywhere from 15 to 30 students will be admitted to each school. It could be a quick transition for Catholic Memorial, which starts the school year a week from Friday.

"If we qualify as one of the top 25 in applications, there will only be about a four day turnaround for the families to assimilate and do the final steps of the process," Father Hartmann said.

The expansion of the School Choice Program does not affect programs already in place in Racine and Milwaukee.