Wisconsin state resources
There are no requirements for registration and licensing. Approval is optional. Accreditation is also optional except for schools participating in the funding programs listed below.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has assembled a page of detailed requirements for private schools.
The US Office of Innovation & Improvement has assembled a summary of regulations for private schools operating in Wisconsin.
A home-based private educational program is defined as instruction provided to a child by the child’s parent or guardian or by a person designated by the parent or guardian. An instructional program provided to more than one family unit does not constitute a home-based private educational program.
The Wisconsin DPI has no published requirements for school insurance -- consult a professional for guidance in this area.
State funding sources & support
Wisconsin provides funding for private education:
Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP): provides state aid payments to parents of students who reside in the City of Milwaukee to attend participating private schools in Wisconsin.
Parental Private School Choice Program (PPSCP – Racine): provides state aid payments to parents of children who reside in the Racine Unified School District (RUSD) to attend participating private schools in the state.
Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP): provides state aid payments to parents of students who reside in a Wisconsin school district to attend any participating private schools.
According to Wisconsin’s statutory definition of a 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 a school’s religious doctrines or exclude any teachings consistent with the school’s religious doctrines.
Teacher certification & hiring
Private schools are not obligated to employ licensed or certified teachers. However, the state superintendent of public instruction has the authority to license or certify teachers employed at private schools. Teachers employed by a school participating in the MPCP and the PPSCP are required to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution of higher education.
Food services / school lunch
In Wisconsin, school lunch requirements, including funding for schools offering the National School Lunch Program, are managed by the Department of Public Instruction.
Length of school year
According to Wisconsin’s statutory definition of a private school, a private school must provide at least 875 hours of instruction each school year. Private schools participating in the MPCP and PPSCP must provide at least 1,050 hours of direct pupil instruction for grades 1–6 and 1,137 hours of direct pupil instruction for grades 7–12.
Recordkeeping and reports
Schools must report enrollment information to the department of public instruction annually.
Health and safety requirements
Students must be immunized or provide documentation of a medical or religious exemption. Schools must conduct monthly fire drills.
With some exceptions, school boards operating high schools must provide transportation for K–12 private school students if all of the following conditions are met: (1) the pupil resides two miles or more from the private school they attend; (2) the pupil resides within the private school’s approved attendance area; and (3) the private school is located not more than five miles beyond the boundaries of the pupil’s resident school district measured along the usually traveled route.
Assessment is not required for pupils attending private schools with the exception of assessment requirements for pupils attending private schools under the three state choice programs.
State and regional associations
Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools: a non-profit, nonpartisan, government relations association representing 600 religious and independent schools and more than 100,000 students across Wisconsin since 1974.
Wisconsin Religious and Independent Schools Accreditation: WRISA annually accredits schools that meet rigorous standards of excellence and demonstrate continuous school improvement.
Wisconsin Association of Christian Schools was founded in 1977 to promote Christian education in Wisconsin. We seek to foster, maintain, and improve the moral, spiritual, and academic standards of the Christian schools in Wisconsin.
Independent Schools Association of the Central States: ISACS leads schools to pursue exemplary independent education.
Starting a Private School
Want to know more about opening a school? We’ve assembled a complete guide to starting a private school, with considerations for everything from planning and finance to branding, hiring, curriculum, facilities, and more!
We've done our best to pull together current and accurate information. Even so, there may be omissions or mistakes or content that needs to be updated. If you have recommendations for any resources or corrections, we appreciate your input so we can continue to improve this guide for everyone.
Nothing in this guide should be construed as legal, business, or tax advice. It is important that you engage qualified professionals who can advise you on such matters, and please visit the Department of Education pages for your state to verify you are in compliance with all regulations.