EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) The state is working its way towards filling 500 spots at private schools in the new state-wide voucher program, which pays for low income families to attend private schools.
The Johnson family in Eau Claire is one of more than 1,500 still waiting for their name to be called after the first round of students were selected.
“We choose to go through the Regis system because our religion is really important to us,” Lisa Johnson said.
Lisa and Jeremy Johnson said while they're finishing up graduate school, coming up with more than $5,000 this year for two kids at St. James Catholic Elementary School isn't easy.
They said they applied for the school voucher program that pays for private school education using taxpayer money.
“Every year, we're not sure we're going to be able to make it happen for the kids, and so the vouchers for families like ours would've been really helpful,” Lisa said.
The Johnsons haven't been selected.
“We were disappointed, we were also going into this with a realistic view that there are 120 other families in the Regis system competing for the same vouchers that we are,” she said.
At least 86 families in Western Wisconsin will have a chance to take advantage of the new state-wide program to fund private education expenses for 500 total students. The program has been criticized by public schools saying it's taking public money away from the state budget and puts more students into private schools.
“The idea is putting power back with families and having choices. And family wanting another education system but not being able to afford it. It's another opportunity,” McDonell Area Catholic Schools of Chippewa Falls Vice President of Academic Affairs and Leadership Development Mary Huffcutt said.
Families were notified if they were selected last week and had until yesterday to tell the schools if they would be attending. If not, those spots opened up for others until all 500 spots are filled.
“If we're meant to be, then it will happen for us. And if not, … other families, who deserve it just as much as we did, will be getting good news today,” Lisa said.
Public schools have also said they're concerned about the lack of standards that need to be followed in a private setting compared to public districts.
So far, 37 students were picked at Eau Claire Regis, 21 at La Crosse Aquinas and 28 at McDonell.