School Choice FAQ
How do I know if my family is eligible?
A student qualifies for the Choice program on the basis of their residency, family income, and prior year attendance. There is also an age requirement that must be met for kindergarten and grade 1.
- Residency – For the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP), the applicant’s home must be located in the school district listed on the Choice application and the applicant’s home must be in Wisconsin but not located within the boundaries of the City of Milwaukee or the Racine Unified School District. All applicants must provide proof of residency each year as part of their annual application for the Choice program and the schools must verify residency every year for all applicants. Click here to view what documents are acceptable proof of residency.
- Income – New Choice students must provide income documentation showing that the family income does not exceed the income limits. Income limits for the 2021-22 school year can be found here on the DPI website.
- Age & Attendance – Students age 4 and up are eligible to apply for the Choice program. Additionally, a student must be the following age on or before September 1: 4 years old for kindergarten and 6 years old for grade 1. Students applying must:
- Be applying to kindergarten or grade 1 for the 2021-22 school year
- Meet one of the following requirements for the 2020-21 school year:
- attended a public school in Wisconsin
- attended school in another state
- not enrolled in school (i.e. was homeschooled for entire year)
- participated in any Choice program
- was on a waiting list for Choice program
If we are eligible how do we apply?
Each year parents must complete the online parent application at dpi.wi.gov/choice. A valid email is required. Parents will receive a confirmation email after they submit an application with directions regarding the supporting documentation parents must provide to the school to complete the application process. Parents may only apply during the open application period available for each school/program. The Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP) application period for the 2021-22 school year begins on February 1 and closes on April 15. A student may apply to the Choice program at one or more schools during the open application period.
Has PRWS applied to the School Choice program because of COVID-19?
Actually, no! We made the decision to pursue the ‘deep-dive’ of research into the program before COVID-19 was on our radar, and would have pursued the research regardless. With the economic effects of the pandemic on families, we believe this option will be all the more welcome.
What is the difference between a Charter and Choice school?
A Charter school is actually a public school or connected with a public school. They are not tuition-based. Charter schools, including Charter Waldorf schools, are subject to similar requirements that public schools are, including standardized testing and Common Core curriculum. Teachers at Charter schools are required to hold state teacher’s licenses.
Choice schools are private, tuition-based schools that participate in the Choice Program. They are accredited through independent agencies (similar to Association of Waldorf Schools of North America) and are not subject to the same curriculum and testing as public institutions.
Are Choice families assessed any amount of tuition?
No. Families who hold Choice spots qualify for a tuition voucher, which is paid on their qualifying child(ren)’s behalf to the school they attend by WPCP. Families who hold Choice spots will be assessed an annual supply fee for each student.
Will you still have the Tuition Adjustment Program if our family is not interested or eligible for a Choice spot?
Yes, absolutely. PRWS remains committed to working with every family committed to providing a Waldorf education for their child(ren), regardless of income.
What change do you anticipate for full-pay families?
One change is we have decided to hold tuition steady rather than raising it, for the second year in a row. We hope that the addition of the vouchers can strengthen the school’s finances without asking more from families paying full tuition. Other than that, we do not anticipate any other changes, except a continued thriving school community of which to be part!
How many Choice spots are there?
For the 2021-22 school year each district has an enrollment cap of 6% of its public school district enrollment able to participate in the Choice program. This cap will increase by 1% each year until the enrollment limit reaches 10%, then there will no longer be a cap. For this first year, due to additional requirements for grades 7 and 8, we have only designated Choice spots in kindergarten through grade 6.
What if more students apply than there are spots?
If the number of eligible applications received during an open application period exceeds the number of seats available by grade or the number permitted by state law (WPCP only), a random drawing must be held to determine which applicants are accepted. The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) conducts the random selection for WPCP. A school may give preference to the following in the order of preference listed:
- Students who attended the private school under any Choice program during the prior year
- Their siblings
- Students who attended a different private school under any Choice program during the prior year
- Their siblings
- Siblings of students who have been randomly accepted to attend the private school under the Choice program who did not attend a private school under any Choice program in the prior year.
The drawing continues until all available seats are filled and a waiting list order is determined.
If my child receives a Choice spot, is standardized testing required?
Parents have the option to opt-out of the standardized testing that is asked of students in grades 3-8 who fill the Choice spots, via a simple form. If a parent opts in, then the school is required to administer these tests, but outside of the classroom, and during class time. At our sister Waldorf schools, who are part of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) and WPCP, the majority of parents with students in grades 3-6 opt out of the testing.
Are there additional health requirements or vaccinations?
At this time we do anticipate any changes required to our current health policy.
It sounds like much will remain the same. What will change?
One thing you will notice is that our school year will be extended somewhat to accommodate more instructional hours, which is required by the DPI. We will begin working on the 2021-22 school calendar soon, but families should anticipate the school year beginning the week before Labor Day rather than the week after.
Will PRWS still have a parent fundraising commitment?
Yes. Our Parent Fundraising Commitment is an integral part of our annual budget. We believe these are equalizing and unifying parts of our culture that exist for all parents. Families who hold Choice spots will also be asked and strongly encouraged to participate in fundraising efforts (currently our annual raffle), however WPCP terms stipulate that Choice schools may not contractually obligate/require Choice families to do so.
Who do I contact if I have questions?
You can reach out with questions or comments to any member of the PRWS School Choice Committee by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.