Wisconsin Spotlight | July 3, 2020
MADISON — Facing a legal challenge, the state Department of Public Instruction and the Department of Revenue have agreed to end an illegal policy that blocked Badger State families from enrolling in the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP).
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty filed a lawsuit in May against DPI and Revenue after a West Allis family was denied entry into the state’s voucher program.
As Empower Wisconsin reported, Katrina and Noah Olguin, Sr. applied to send their two children to a high-performing choice school. DPI determined the family was $47 over the income threshold.
The Olguins made a legal contribution to an IRA account, resubmitted their tax return and reapplied to the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program. DPI refused to consider the new application. The agency cited a “one and done” policy, according to the lawsuit filed against DPI and its superintendent
The two sides have agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding that eliminates the “one and done” policy. As a result, the Olguin family was able to access a voucher through the WPCP and enroll at Heritage Christian Schools.
WILL dismissed the lawsuit filed against the state education agency on June 26.
“We are very happy that the Olguin family will receive the school choice funding they were qualified to receive,” said John Davis, president of Heritage Christian Schools, said in a statement. “It is satisfying to know that other parents who face similar circumstances in the future will be able to have their cases reviewed.”
DPI spokesman Chris Bucher said the memorandum of understanding is a change in process, dependent upon a change in practice by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.
“By statute, the DOR determines income eligibility under the DOR method. DOR had told the DPI that DOR could not consider amended returns. Therefore, our system was not set up to allow a family to submit a second time following a family filing an amended return,” Bucher said.
Lucas Vebber, WILL deputy counsel, said the Milwaukee-based public interest law firm welcomes DPI’s decision to abandon its illegal police.
“WILL is prepared to stand with all Wisconsin families who want to attend the school that meets their needs,” Vebber said in a statement.