"Parental Rights"

Calculating Wisconsin Taxpayers' Overpayment for Vouchers

Analysis of the average cost in excess of private school tuition paid by Wisconsin taxpayers is illuminating. Both the numbers of schools receiving this state subsidy and the average dollar amount of that subsidy are high. Eighty-nine percent of the religious schools participating in the voucher program—54 out of a total of 61—received a voucher payment that exceeds their school tuition.

The average overpayment per student to these religious schools—state taxpayer expenditures over and above what the school would collect in the form of tuition—is $2,437. This figure represents the difference between the average tuition charged by these religious schools in 1998-99 of $1,887 and the average voucher payment received by these schools of $4,324. In other words, state taxpayers paid not only the $1,887 average tuition per student, but also contributed an additional $2,437 per student in order to reach the schools’ allotted voucher payment.

The overpayment figures on non-religious schools are less complete, because only 9 of the 21 non-religious voucher schools provided state auditors with tuition information. This may be because 9 of the 12 non-reporting schools enroll almost 100 percent voucher students, rendering the level of tuition effectively moot. Of the 9 non-religious schools that did provide tuition information, 8 (89 percent) received voucher amounts greater than tuition. The average per student subsidy for these schools—state taxpayer money above what the school would collect from tuition—is $2,822.

Table 1.

Average Per-Student State Overpayment above School Tuition


Per-Student Average: Religious Schools Non-Religious Schools Total
Voucher Payment $4,324 $4,594 $4,376
Tuition $1,887 $1,772 $1,865
Difference Between Voucher and Tuition (Taxpayer Overpayment) $2,437 $2,822 $2,511

The arithmetic of the tuition overpayment is shown in Table 1. Data in this table are for the 62 out of 82 voucher schools that receive an overpayment. The first row in the table shows the per-student average voucher payments for the religious schools, non-religious schools, and all of these schools, respectively. The second row shows the average tuition for each of these categories, and the final row shows the difference between these two, which is the amount of the tuition overpayment.

These data for the 54 religious schools are also presented in the pie chart in Figure 1. It can be seen in the chart that the taxpayer-funded tuition overpayment of $2,437 is larger than the average tuition in these schools—$1,887—and represents 56 percent of the average voucher payment ($4,324).

Taxpayer Funding Over and Above Tuition for Voucher Students in 54 Religious Schools Receiving Tuition Overpayments


Average Tuition 44% $1,887
Tuition Overpayment 56% $4,324
Average Voucher Payment Per Student $4,324

Figure 1.

In the aggregate, these overpayments add up to millions of dollars. The tuition overpayment paid by state taxpayers in 1998-99 amounted to about $11.5 million dollars, as can be seen in Table 2. This represents about 40 percent of the total cost of the program, estimated at $28.4 million in 1998-99. Of this approximately $11.5 million subsidy, about 78 percent (between $8.8 million and $9.3 million) went to subsidize religious school budgets.

Table 2.

Total State Overpayment Above School Tuition
In 62 Schools Receiving Overpayments


Totals, for 62 schools: Religious Schools Non-Religious Schools Totals
Voucher student enrollment 3,705 884 4,588
Voucher payment $16,019,500 $4,059,100 $20,078,600
Voucher payment

if limited to level of tuition

$6,989,400 $1,565,500 $8,554,900
Tuition overpayment $9,030,100 $2,493,600 $11,523,700

The portion of the total costs of the voucher program spent on excess payments over and above the cost of tuition is illustrated by the shaded piece of the pie on the left in Figure 2. This piece—about 40 percent of the whole pie—represents the $11.5 million of the costs of the program which were spent on tuition overpayments. The smaller pie on the right illustrates the share of this $11.5 million overpayment that went to religious schools and non-religious schools in the Milwaukee voucher program.

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