School Choice

Wisconsin Parental Choice Program-WPCP


About the WPCP
Beginning in 2019, St. John’s Lutheran School will be part of the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP). For students selected by the state, families receive a voucher that pays their students' St. John's Lutheran School tuition in full. The open application period for the statewide Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP) for the 2019-2020 school year begins February 1 and runs through April 20, 2019.

Students entering Kindergarten or 1st grade and those transferring from a public school at any grade level are eligible for this.  The St. John’s Lutheran School Board has approved 38 seats for the 2019-20 school year. This number reflects a sufficient number of seats for St. John’s students currently enrolled in school with the remainder open for new choice students in all grades.
 
If my child is enrolling at St. John’s Lutheran and I hope to use the choice program, for which program am I eligible?
St. John’s is in the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program. This is both for students who transfer to St. John’s from a public school and will be in grades 1-8 and for Kindergarten and 1st grade students first enrolling at St. John’s in 2019-2020. 
There are two other choice programs in Wisconsin. However, they are for parts of the state from which St. John's does not draw students.
 
The Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP) online parent application is available February 1 at dpi.wi.gov/choice
A Spanish version of the application is also available through the same website. 
 
From the WPCP FAQs:
The application period for the 2019-2020 school year is from February 1 – April 20, 2019. Late applications will not be accepted for any reason. Parents must complete the online student application. Parents must provide residency documentation and income documentation, if applicable, to the school(s) they apply to during the application period or the application is ineligible. Additionally, applicants for the WPCP will have to indicate which of the school attendance requirements they meet. Parents/guardians may either: (a) use the Department of Public Instruction’s income determination method by answering a series of income questions in the online application and providing paper income documentation to the school as directed in the application during the open application period or (b) provide their social security numbers or taxpayer identification number to the school and have the Department of Revenue determine whether the student is income eligible for the program. The school will verify that the student meets the income requirements. Applicants must also provide proof of residency directly to the school during the open application period. 
 
Is Your Family Eligible for Parental Choice?
To meet the income requirements for the program a student’s family must have an Adjusted Gross Income at or below 220% of the federal poverty level with an additional $7,000 allowed for a married couple as illustrated in the table below. 2019-2020 Adjusted Gross Income limits are shown below.
 
Family Size Single Parent
Family Income
Married
Family
Income
2 $36,212  
3 $45,716 $52,716
4 $55,220 $62,220
5 $64,724 $71,724
6 $74,228 $81,228

*Add $9,504 for each additional family member above 6
**Family Income is the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) on 1040 tax form (Line 37)
(A clarification: when a married couple applies for a Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP) voucher for their child, $7,000 is SUBTRACTED from their adjusted gross income before comparing it to the income chart. This is considered a benefit to married parents. The rightmost column on the above chart shows the 2-parent household income for eligibility under the income limits.) Family size includes parents/legal guardians and their children by birth, marriage, or adoption that reside in the same household as the student applicant.

What Does This Mean for Your Family?

If your student is new to St. John’s Lutheran School and you have a need for Financial Aid, apply for both Financial Aid and the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP) if you meet the income criteria of the WPCP. 
 
Who gets picked for a voucher through WPCP?
Students who receive a voucher through the WPCP to attend St. John’s Lutheran School may renew the voucher in following years. The subsequent applications are much simpler: only residency verification is needed.
Kindergarten and 1st grade are considered the "entry points" in the program. This means all incoming Kindergarten and 1st graders who meet the income criteria are eligible to be picked. The cap for vouchers in the 2019-2020 school year is 4% of the school district’s total enrollment where the family resides. If more than 4% of a district's students apply for vouchers, they are selected in a random drawing by the Wisconsin DPI.

Is early application advantageous?
The timing of the application does not give the applicant family an advantage. Those who register near the end of the enrollment period have the same opportunity as those who register early. However, an early application is still recommended to be sure that the state and St. John’s Lutheran School receive the correct information.

What happens if more students apply than the seats available?
If more students apply to the WPCP than what St. John’s has opened at a specific grade level, the state of Wisconsin will conduct a lottery to select students for that grade level. On occasion, a selected student may decide not to enroll. If this happens, an opportunity will be extended to a student at that grade level who was not initially selected.
 
If a St. John’s Lutheran student is in the choice program, will he or she be treated differently?
Students in the choice program are St. John’s Lutheran students in every sense of the word. They have the opportunity to ride the bus each day, take the same classes as other St. John’s students, and participate in co-curricular activities. In short, they are St. John’s students.
Only three in-school personnel know the identity of the choice students. They are the school’s choice administrator (Principal), the assistant to the choice administrator who helps process applications (Pastor), and the individual directing the voucher payments (School Secretary). The student and his/her family will know they are in the choice program, but they will not know the identity of other choice students. St. John’s Lutheran School will take every possible precaution to safeguard the identity of its choice students.

Does the choice payment cover every related expense?
No. The choice payment covers tuition and education-related fees in full. Expenses not covered by the choice payment include:
  • social and extracurricular activities (e.g.: admission fees, band/piano fees, etc);
  • rental of musical instruments;
  • school meals served through our hot lunch program (Note: St. John’s Lutheran School does participate in the national school lunch program. As a participating school, it offers free and reduced lunches to students whose families qualify)
There may be other fees for which St. John’s Lutheran may charge. The above list is not intended to be an exhaustive one. If you have questions, contact St. John’s Lutheran choice administrator (the Principal) for an explanation.
 
Is my family automatically in the program once we meet the income and residency requirements of the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP)?
Not necessarily.  Current WPCP guidelines allow 4% of the student population of a school district to participate in the program. For example, if a district has 1,000 students, 4% of that total - 40 students - may participate.  Keep in mind that all WPCP schools in the area share those 40 students. If the number of applicants from a district exceeds the 4%, a state-held lottery randomly selects which students receive vouchers. This means that some qualified applicants may not be selected.

The good news is that St. John’s Lutheran School draws from more than just the Jefferson School District. 4% of the student population of each district is eligible for the WPCP. (This year there are 66 seats open in the Jefferson School District.)

Furthermore, there are a limited number of WPCP schools in the areas from which St. John’s Lutheran School will draw its students. The likelihood that a family who applies to and qualifies for the WPCP may send a student to St. John’s under the program is good. 

St. John’s Lutheran School has financial aid available for its students. All families who feel that they have financial need may apply. Families of prospective WPCP students are encouraged to apply for financial aid. If the family does not qualify for choice or is not selected if a lottery is held, they may still be able to send their student to St. John’s with this assistance.
 
Am I finished with the process after I have completed the online application?
No. All applicant families must additionally provide two pieces of information to St. John’s Lutheran School.
One is proof of residency. This may be a recent utility bill, a cable bill, a tax bill, or another government-issued mailing that proves that the family lives at the location that it claims. Proof of residency is important since the 4% figure (mentioned above) is determined by this.
Secondly, the family must document its financial eligibility. For those using the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) method, this typically means providing their completed and signed 2018 tax forms to St. John’s Lutheran School. For those using the Department of Revenue (DOR) method, this means providing the Social Security number(s) of the parent(s) during the application process. 
Whichever method the family selects, the online application form informs parents what to provide to St. John’s Lutheran School.

Steps to Apply for Parental Choice at St. John’s Lutheran School

1.  Fill out the online application. The online application needs to be completed through the WPCP website. The application window is open from February 1 through April 20, 2019.
  • Note: An e-mail address is required to register. Communications on the status of applications and the steps necessary to complete them will be e-mailed to the parent or legal guardian.
  • Once an application is electronically submitted, the parent or guardian will be able to correct it online until the final day of the application period. Be sure to record the e-mail address and password that you use. Missing or incorrect information will cause problems processing applications and may cause them to be ineligible.
2.  Provide Proof of Residency to St. John’s. St. John’s Lutheran School must be given a copy of ONE of the following documents. The document must be current (within the last 3 months):
  • Current water, gas, electric, cable, satellite, or landline phone bill. (Cell phone & internet bills NOT acceptable).
  • 2018 Property tax bill or current (signed and dated) lease agreement
  • Current wage statement (can be a year-end W2)
  • Recent government correspondence. Current benefits statements from access.wisconsin.gov
3.  Provide income documentation.  Families applying to the WPCP for the 1st time need to provide income documentation. 
  • St. John’s Lutheran School prefers that families select the DPI Method. The DPI method allows applicants to know up front if they qualify financially.
  • DPI Method Documentation (*Preferred Method*) -- Acceptable documentation includes:
Copy the first two pages of your 1040 Federal Income Tax Return for 2018.  Needs to be signed and dated by taxpayers.
OR
  • If your taxes are not completed, you may submit copies of all 2018 income documentation (employer W2s, 1099s, etc).
OR
  • If you do not file for income tax, you must provide copies of all other income documentation for 2018 (social security statements, unemployment compensation statements, child support statements, etc).
 
DOR Method (Secondary Method): Provide Social Security Number(s) of parents/guardians to St. John's Lutheran School.

DPI or DOR?

There are two methods by which families applying to the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP) may determine their financial eligibility: 
  • The DPI (Department of Public Instruction) method is the preferred one. It is a series of income questions that are answered in the initial online application. Once completed, the parent(s) must provide hard copies of income documentation to St. John’s Lutheran School as directed in the application. The school will then verify that the student meets the WPCP's income requirements.
 
  • The DOR (Department of Revenue) method requires the parent(s) to provide their social security numbers or taxpayer identification numbers during the online application. The parent enters these numbers into the state's online system and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue determines income eligibility for the program.
Although St. John’s Lutheran School may process applicant families via both methods, the DPI method is preferable since the parent(s) will immediately know if the family is income eligible for the WPCP.

What else should families do?

Families who apply for the WPCP should also complete St. John’s Lutheran School online enrollment process- including financial aid. This helps the school plan for adequate staffing and other resources. A link to this will be provided as soon as we have it available for the 2019-2020 school year.
  • Know that when the application period closes on April 20, St. John’s Lutheran School must have all required income and residency documents in its possession. If these materials are not at St. John’s Lutheran School by the end of the day that the application window closes (or the closest school day preceding it if April 20 falls on a non-school day), the application is nullified;
  • St. John’s Lutheran School telephones applicants who need to submit documents to remind them of this deadline. If you are a WPCP applicant and have recently received a voicemail from St. John’s Lutheran School, return that phone call as soon as possible;
  • After St. John’s Lutheran School receives the necessary income and residency documentation, processing occurs. An applicant may check the status of an application by logging into the online application system where the application was first made. If St. John's has verified the application, the phrase "The school has completed the verification" will appear on the page; 
  • Submitting income and residency documentation well before the April 20 deadline makes it possible for St. John’s Lutheran School to follow up if necessary.


Once an application has been made for a Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP) voucher and the applicant parent has met with the St. John’s, what's next?

You wait! The application period lasts until April 20 for all families with a current WPCP student(s) to reapply and for all families applying on behalf of a new student. After the application deadline, St. John’s Lutheran School is given ten calendar days to finish processing its applications. Then, the state Department of Public Instruction takes over. It reviews the school's online verification and determines how many applicants will receive a "seat" (i.e.: a voucher). Typically, the state notifies verified applicants in June if they have received a voucher. After that, the parent must notify St. John’s Lutheran School within 14 calendar days if they accept. If acceptance is not done in this time frame, the voucher offer is withdrawn.

During the month of July, the classroom teachers will call or email the family of students in their classrooms to schedule an appointment for a home visit. During the visit, the teacher will share valuable information with the family about our Back to School event, the first day of school, and other important items related to their specific classrooms. St. John’s teachers like to complete home visits in late July or early August.

Whom to Contact with Questions?

Please call the St. John’s Lutheran School office (920-674-2922) or contact Principal Peter Lemke (plemke@sjlwels.org) with questions about the program.

St. John’s Lutheran School believes that participating in the WPCP will be an asset to families as we seek to provide a distinctly Lutheran education to the students in the city of Jefferson and also the surrounding communities.