Private School Regulation
Registration/Licensing/Accreditation: Wisconsin will
approve an institution's educational program as a private school, on request,
if the school complies with the statutory definition of private school.
Wisconsin's criteria for a private school is: 1) the primary purpose is
to provide private or religious-based education; 2) the program is privately
controlled; 3) the program provides at least 875 hours of instruction each
school year; 4) the program provides a sequentially progressive curriculum
of fundamental instruction in reading, language arts, mathematics, social
studies, science and health; 5) the program is not operated or instituted
to circumvent the compulsory school attendance requirement; and, 6) the
pupils return home annually for not less than 2 months of summer vacation,
or the institution is a licensed child welfare agency. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.165.
If an accrediting agency submits an affidavit that a private educational
institution meets the criteria of § 118.165 above, and the state superintendent
attests that the institution meets or exceeds the criteria, the Superintendent
shall determine that the institution is a private school. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.167.
Recordkeeping/Reports: By October 15, private school
administrators must report to the Department of Public Instruction the
school enrollment on the 3rd Friday of September. Based on this information,
the Department will prepare reports to enable the private schools to make
projections for school buildings, teacher supply, and necessary funds.
In addition, private schools must report whether the school meets the criteria
under 118.165(1) (cited above). Reporting forms are provided by the Department.
Wis. Stat. Ann. § 115.30.
Private schools must maintain records required under 115.30(2) and 120.18.
Records must be open to inspection of school attendance officers. When
requested, the private school must provide information regarding any pupil
enrolled. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.16(3).
Private schools must provide all necessary information and reports to
the local school board, when requested, to assist in coordinating public
and private school bus transportation. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 121.56.
See also Safety, annual reports
of fire drills.
Length of School Year: According to Wisconsin's statutory
definition of private school, a private school must provide at least 875
hours of instruction each school year. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.165(c).
Teacher Certification: Private schools are not obligated
to employ licensed or certified teachers. However, the State Superintendent
of Public Instruction has the authority to certify teachers employed at
private schools. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 115.28(7)(b).
Curriculum: According to Wisconsin's statutory definition
of private school, the private school must provide a sequentially progressive
curriculum of fundamental instruction in reading, language arts, mathematics,
social studies, science, and health. This requirement does not mandate
teachings in conflict with the school's religious doctrines or exclude
any teachings consistent with the school's religious doctrines. Wis. Stat.
Ann. § 118.65(d).
Private schools must display the U.S. flag during school hours. The pledge
of allegiance must be recited in grades 1-8 at the beginning of school
at least one day per week. No student may be compelled to recite the pledge
against his objections or his parent/guardian's objections. Wis. Stat.
Ann. § 118.06.
The school board of a school district operating high school grades shall
allow a pupil enrolled in a private school, who has met the standards for
admission to high school, to take up to two courses during each school
semester if the pupil resides in the school district in which the public
school is located and if the school board determines that there is sufficient
space in the classroom. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.145 (4).
Special Education: Wisconsin may authorize the payment
of board, lodging, and transportation costs for nonresident students with
exceptional educational needs who are enrolled in private, nonsectarian
special educational programs. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 115.88(3).
Health: School buildings, including parochial schools,
may be inspected for communicable diseases under a warrant. Wis. Stat.
Ann. § 143.02(1). 1908 Op. Atty. Gen. 650.
Employees at private and parochial schools (grades 1-12) must have a physical
examination, including a chest x-ray or tuberculin test, prior to employment.
Wis. Stat. Ann. § 143.16.
Safety: Private schools are required
to conduct fire drills monthly unless inclement weather endangers the health
of the students. Private schools are required to file an annual report
on forms provided documenting the drills. The report must be filed with
the Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations and the local fire
department. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.07(2).
No person may possess or consume alcoholic beverages on school premises.
No one may possess or consume alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle if
a pupil is present or while at a school-sponsored activity unless approved
by the school superintendent in writing. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 125.09.
Licenses to serve or sell alcoholic beverages may be restricted on premises
located within 300 feet of a public or parochial school. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 125.68(3).
Private and parochial school employees are prohibited from conducting
a strip search of any pupil. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.32; 948.50.
Private schools must maintain a standard first aid kit for emergencies.
Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.07(1).
School warning signs will be placed on any street bordering a private
school by the street maintenance authority. The authority may also designate
school crossings. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.08.
Transportation: With some exceptions, school boards
operating high schools must provide transportation for private school students
if they reside within the private school attendance area but 2 miles or
more from the school, and not more than 5 miles beyond the boundaries of
the school district. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 121.54(2).
By April 1 of each year, each private school must submit its proposed
attendance area for the next school year to the school board of each school
district having territory within the proposed attendance area. If no proposal
is submitted, the existing attendance area remains in effect. Wis. Stat.
Ann. § 121.54(2)(b)3.
By May 15 of each year, each private school must notify the school board
of the names, grade levels, locations of all pupils, if any, eligible to
have transportation for the next term. The deadline may be extended by
the school board. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 151.54(2)(b)4.
School boards must provide transportation for children with exceptional
educational needs who attend private schools if the request for transportation
is approved by the state superintendent. Approval is based on whether the
child can walk to school with safety and comfort. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 121.54(3).
School boards providing transportation to private school pupils may do
so by contract with the proper officials of any private school or school
association. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 121.55.
School boards may provide transportation for private school extracurricular
activities if the private school reimburses the board for the costs. Wis.
Stat. Ann. § 121.54(7).
The local school board coordinates public and private school transportation
to ensure the safety and welfare of the pupils. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 121.56.
Private schools operating school buses must maintain an insurance policy
covering bodily injury and property damage. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 121.53.
Home Schooling: A parent, guardian, or designee has
the right to select a home-based private education program for his or her
child or children, in order to comply with the compulsory school attendance
law. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.15 (4). An instructional program provided
to more than one family unit does not constitute a home-based private educational
program. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 115.001 (3g). A home-based private education
program is not considered a private school. The statute requires the parent
or guardian to register the child for home based education by completing
and submitting a form to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.15 (4).
The program of instruction must provide a sequentially progressive curriculum
of fundamental instruction in reading, language arts, mathematics, social
studies, science, and health for at least 875 hours each year. Testing
of students is not mandatory under Wisconsin law. A student enrolled in
a home-based private educational program may pursue the requirements for
a GED certificate but do not receive a traditional Wisconsin high school
diploma. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.165 (1)(d).
Home-based private education students are allowed to attend their local
public high school on a part time basis. A school district, space permitting,
must admit a home-based private education student to take up to two courses
per semester in the high school in which the student is a resident. Students
must satisfy the high school admission standards of the school district.
Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.145 (4).
Public Aid for Private Schools/Private School Students: The
Wisconsin Constitution prohibits any withdrawal from the state treasury
for the benefit of religious societies or religious or theological seminaries.
Wis. Const. Art. 1, Sec. 18. The term "religious seminaries" has been interpreted
to include nonpublic schools where religious instruction is provided. State
ex rel. Reynolds v. Nusbaum 115 N.W.2d 761 (1962).
Wisconsin's Constitution expressly permits the state legislature to provide
transportation for children to and from any parochial or private school.
Wis. Const. Art. 1, Sec. 23.
Parent/guardians may request the school board to provide a child with
a program modification which includes enrollment in any nonsectarian private
school located in the school district which complies with Federal civil
rights laws. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.15((1)(d).
School Districts may allow private school pupils to participate in public
school remedial programs. Op. Atty. Gen. 45-86, Nov. 14, 1986.
Miscellaneous: Parochial and private school administrators,
principals, pupil services professionals and teachers are not liable for
referring pupils to law enforcement authorities or removing pupils from
school or school-sponsored activities for suspicion of possession, distribution
or consumption of alcohol or a controlled substance. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.257.
Building inspectors may distinguish between public and private high schools
when issuing building permits for private high schools based on the general
welfare of the community. State ex rel. Wisconsin Lutheran High School
Conference v. Sinar, 65 N.W.2d 43 (1954).