LA CROSSE, Wi - The announcement that the Aquinas Catholic School System is included in the statewide voucher program has local public school districts preparing to possibly lose students. It also has the families who applied anxious to see how their school year will begin. Families won't find out until next week whether their application was accepted.
For students currently in public school, it could mean a last-minute change, but for many are already enrolled at Aquinas,it would mean a financial break they desperately need.
Candida Bushman is a single mom, and she says the voucher program would go a long way. "The scholarships and things are nice, there's still tuition that needs to be paid for," says Bushman, "single parent-wise there's still a very big financial burden that will be there, but it's for the kids and that's the point." Bushman has 2 kids at Aquinas now, she's had as many as 4 enrolled at one time. It's a financial strain she made the choice to take on because education is important, something she has instilled in her kids. "Very important," says her son Talon, "it's the first thing we do when we get home."
It's part of the reason families like the Bushman's think the voucher program is so important. They think private schools are just that much better when it comes to education, and they want to be a part of it. "They push the kids a little bit harder," says Bushman, "I think they're a little bit more advanced than the public school system, some of the classes they offer are a little bit more advanced."
But not everyone is ready to give up on public education, and some feel the voucher program takes money away from the majority of kids. "If they have been attending the school district of La Crosse and now they're moving into the private school, it's probably $70,000 to $100,000," says La Crosse school Superintendent Randy Nelson. That would be the cost to the district if 10 students left to go to Aquinas. Nelson is worried that eventually there won't be enough state money to go around. "In the year 2013 with the budget situations as they are and reductions that the public schools have made in their budgets over the last three years," says Nelson, "are we really in a position to afford funding two separate systems?"
For now Candida Bushman will have to wait to see what her financial future will be as she tries to do her best for her kids. "I want my kids to succeed and go further in life than what I've done myself," says Bushman.
There will be at least 10 vouchers for Aquinas schools, there could be more depending on the statewide lottery. Aquinas has no say in the selection process. 100 applications were accepted just for Aquinas catholic schools.