LA CROSSE, WI - The deadline is quickly approaching for parents hoping to use taxpayer-funded vouchers to send their children to a private school.
Friday afternoon, enrollment for the new statewide voucher program will close.
It's capped at 500 students. If more than 500 apply, only the 25 schools with the most applicants will be accepted to the program.
The president of Aquinas Catholic Schools in La Crosse, Dr. Kurt Nelson, said there's been a lot of interest in the voucher program from families in the area.
"It's been very busy. It's been a great response. This morning we had 86 students who have applied for a voucher, and that number continues to grow quite a bit. I imagine it will grow quite a bit more before Friday's deadline," said Nelson.
To enroll, families have to fill out an online application and take proof of income and other financial records to Aquinas Catholic Schools.21394748
If Aquinas Catholic Schools get into the voucher program, the amount of money each student would get would be more than enough to pay for tuition.
Only about 20 of the more than 86 applicants at Aquinas Catholic Schools would actually get those voucher dollars if accepted.
And while it will help those 20 families, Nelson said the voucher dollars will actually stretch much further.
"We're eagerly waiting. The response has been very good from families in our community," said Nelson.
Nelson said private-school vouchers would make a big difference for families in the community.
"We know there's much more need and desire than there are going to be spots," said Nelson.
If Aquinas Catholic Schools are accepted into the program, they would receive more than $6,400 per student.
Tuition ranges a lot less than that at $2,500 to $6,000.
But Nelson said tuition has never covered the full cost of education.
"What we do then is we supplement the tuition families are paying with additional revenue we're receiving from our supporting parishes, from our foundation and then from a number of fundraising and developmental work that we do. Also donations from alumni and friends of our school," said Nelson.
If extra money is coming in from vouchers, does that mean parishes will give less to the schools to help with the cost of education?
Nelson said no.
"Our parishes have made commitments to us for the year of what they're going to contribute," said Nelson.
"The voucher money that we may be receiving by families going through this program is specifically going into the classroom. The resources being obtained is being placed into the classroom, whether that's with instructional resources and supplies that are going to be touched by students daily to be successful in our classrooms," said Cathedral Elementary School Principal Greg Wesely.
"Some of that money will pay for additional teachers and additional materials needed for those classrooms," said Nelson.
Nelson said the voucher money will also free up some scholarships for other families who are in financial need but didn't receive a voucher.
Of the more than 85 voucher applications, only a quarter are for families not currently at Aquinas Catholic Schools.