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Assessing the Fiscal Impact of Wisconsin's Statewide Voucher Program

In 2013, Wisconsin’s legislature added a statewide voucher program to the existing voucher programs in Milwaukee and Racine. The state expanded the statewide program in 2015 and changed the funding mechanism of the program so that its cost was borne by local school districts. The program is already distributing tens of millions of dollars to pay private school tuition across the state, and, because of Wisconsin’s school funding system, its fiscal impact is not evenly distributed across Wisconsin’s public schools.

This policy memo describes how the voucher program alters the relative share of public education spending borne by the state and by local districts, and estimates the differential fiscal impact of the program on Wisconsin school districts. As more states enact or expand their voucher programs, the case of Wisconsin illustrates how one-size-fits-all statewide programs have the potential to exacerbate funding disparities in the public system.