Voucher Schools Balk at State Enforcement of Voucher Law

Schools’ Challenge Could Undermine Students’, Parents’, Taxpayers’ Rights

Seventeen of Milwaukee’s private and religious voucher schools, facing investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) for alleged violations of the state’s voucher law, are contesting the state agency’s authority to enforce the law. The schools are claiming that their private status and the alleged lack of appropriate procedural regulations puts them beyond the reach of any oversight and enforcement of the voucher statute by DPI.

Lawyers for the schools are seeking to have a pending complaint against the schools dismissed, arguing in a letter to DPI that the state cannot make the private voucher schools follow the law.

In August, People For the American Way Foundation and the NAACP of Milwaukee filed a complaint with DPI, after an investigation by civil rights compliance testers from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council uncovered evidence that some private and religious voucher schools were violating the law. Those violations included: failing to select voucher students at random, charging extra fees prohibited by the law, and failing to abide by provisions that allow parents to opt their children out of religious activities.

"These private schools want the voucher money, but they don’t want to have to obey the law to get it," said Carole Shields, president of People For the American Way Foundation. "The idea that DPI can’t enforce the law isn’t just ridiculous – it’s an insult to taxpayers who have the right to expect that institutions that receive their money will obey the law."

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