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Private school choice program grows statewide, in MerrillSubmitted: 02/22/2018
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com

Private school choice program grows statewide, in Merrill
MERRILL - Trinity Lutheran School in Merrill doesn't have room for any more kindergarten students next year.

Its class is already full, partly because some families can send their kids to Trinity for free.

For the third straight year, Trinity will participate in Wisconsin's private school choice program.

This year, the state pays tuition for about 30 of Trinity's 120 total students.

"Parents like the Christian base, obviously. That's the main reason people send [their kids] here," said School Administrator Kathy Yahr. "They're keeping them here more now because of the opportunities that we offer."


The number of schools in Wisconsin's choice program has shot up in the last five years. In 2013-2014, it was 25. Next year, it will be nearly nine times that. Trinity is part of that rise.

Even so, just two schools in Northwoods counties, Trinity and Peace Lutheran in Antigo, are eligible for the program.

The choice program allows first grader Lexee Laabs and her brother, Asa, to go to Trinity.

"It's like a family environment. Everybody knows everybody," said their father, Ike. "The classroom sizes are relatively small compared to the public schools."

The Laabs family couldn't afford Trinity without the program. Instead, they would be in public schools.

"If they didn't have the school choice program, we wouldn't be able to have our kids in here," Laabs said.

Families making up to 220 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for the choice program. For instance, a family of four making $54,000 or less is eligible.

Trinity thinks the choice program works, giving lower-income families flexibility in picking a school.

"[We're] able to offer a Christian education for anyone who wants one for absolutely free," Yahr said.

Wisconsin's school choice application period for families runs through April 20.

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