"Parental Rights"

Sources of Data

This report is based on data from two sources: An Evaluation: Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, Report 00-2, February 2000, the state audit conducted by the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau (WLAB) in accordance with the legislation authorizing the Milwaukee voucher program, and the Financial Information Reports for 1998-1999 made available in spreadsheet files by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI).

All enrollment and expenditure data are taken from DPI, while information on private school tuition comes from the WLAB audit’s individual school profiles (Appendix I). DPI’s enrollment numbers are used by the state to calculate the state payment to each voucher school and are therefore the more accurate of the two. The Legislative Audit does provide total student and voucher student enrollment, but its figures are based on a single, January pupil count and are therefore less accurate than DPI’s numbers, which are derived from independent, end-of-year audits that each participating private school must have in order for DPI to calculate state payment.

The two reports list slightly different numbers of schools participating in the voucher program: Whereas WLAB’s Appendix I profiles 86 schools, DPI reports 82. This is due to the fact that DPI has combined two multi-campus schools (Seeds of Health, with 3 campuses and St. Vincent Palotti with two) into one school each for accounting purposes. DPI also has no separate entry for the Immaculate Conception school because it merged midyear with another voucher school. This report follows DPI’s format to make use of its more accurate enrollment data for the above multi-campus schools, and, in the case of Immaculate Conception, to avoid double counting those students whose school merged with another voucher school midyear.

The taxpayer overpayment calculations for a small number of schools are based on incomplete tuition payment data. According to the WLAB audit profiles, 16 religious schools offer two tuition rates, generally offering lower rates to students who are members of the parish. Neither DPI nor the WLAB audit data, however, break school enrollment down into parishioner/non-parishioner figures. (The one exception to the parish/non-parish basis for differing tuition rates is the Nazareth school, which has a sliding scale tuition not based on parish membership. Because it is a variable tuition religious school, however, it is treated in the same manner as the other dual tuition religious schools.)

In the absence of this parish/non-parish member enrollment information there is no way to calculate precisely how much state taxpayer money in excess of tuition goes to each school, because that figure depends on the tuition rate and the actual numbers of parishioner and non-parishioner voucher students. This report, therefore, uses the average of the two tuition rates—in other words, it assumes that half of the voucher students are parish members and half are not. To the extent that the majority of students at a parish school are parishioners, using this parishioner/non-parishioner average understates the size of the state taxpayer subsidy. Conversely, if a greater number of voucher students are not parish members, this average overstates the state taxpayer subsidy. Although this average tuition rate is generally utilized in the tables and discussion in this report, we have also calculated the possible range of variation depending on the actual number of parishioner and non-parishioner voucher students at the dual tuition schools. If all of the voucher students at these schools are parishioners, the total amount of the voucher overpayment is $11,754,000. If none are parishioners, the total is $11,277,000—a range of approximately $480,000. This is the source of the high/low ranges in this report.

In addition, the available data may be incomplete with respect to tuition levels for part-time kindergarten students. Many schools in the study that offer kindergarten have at least some students in that grade who are not full-time students. Yet only six of these schools reported to the WLAB that they charge differential tuition rates to their full and part-time kindergartners. (Of those six, one—Sharon Junior Academy—would appear to be anomalous, as it reports a higher rate ($205 for “constituents,” $237 for “non-constituents”) for its kindergartners, all of whom are part-time, than for its students in grades 1- 8 (ranging from $167 to $194 for constituents, and between $200 and $225 for non-constituents, depending on grade level). Four of the others (St. Marcus, St. Margaret Mary, Sherman Park and Tamarack) have part-time kindergarten tuition set at 64 percent, 61 percent, 72 percent and 80 percent of full tuition, respectively. A fifth school, Lakeshore Montessori, has only kindergarten students, but reports a part-time tuition that is 65 percent of the full-time tuition rate. Although it may well be that other voucher schools also charge a lower tuition to part-time kindergarten students, this report consistently utilizes the tuition data actually reported by the schools to the WLAB. Thus, the calculations used to produce this report assume that schools that have kindergarten charge full-time tuition to part-time kindergartners unless they specifically report otherwise. To the extent that any of these schools do not in fact do this, the actual tuition overpayment is higher than has been estimated in this report.

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