While St. Philip Neri received the biggest one-time windfall to any private school under the provision, other schools received significant amounts. Salam School, operated by the Islamic Society of Milwaukee Inc., benefited the most of any voucher school, taking in an extra $316,892 in voucher money over three years on the strength of the school's $1.8 million building.
Dozens of other schools collected money in smaller amounts under the provision, ranging from a few thousand dollars to more than $100,000.
Rita Cheng, an associate dean and accounting professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee whose research interests include government policy and accounting, told Rethinking Schools that the building charge provision appears to be defensible as a means for voucher schools to charge the state for the cost of using up and eventually replacing their buildings.
In allowing schools to receive state help in building a nest-egg to replace their buildings, however, the provision underscores that Wisconsin's voucher law subsidizes private schools in a way that tuition-paying parents do not.
In essence, the building charges - like other provisions in the voucher formula that end up boosting payments over what schools normally charge as tuition - wind up being a sort of state religious subsidy, says Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Wisconsin chapter, which has opposed the voucher program on church-state separation grounds.