In a lengthy and heated session largely focused on election reform, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill Tuesday to increase oversight of private schools participating in the state’s voucher school program.

The bill, introduced by Sens. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, and Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, will make the process by which private schools enter the state’s voucher school programs more stringent.

“Brand new schools attempting to enter the parental choice programs in Wisconsin will need to go through earlier and more rigorous reviews,” Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin, said in a statement. 

With the new bill, schools will now be required to successfully budget and fund themselves. The schools must operate for a year with their own funds and then receive Department of Public Instruction approval prior to entering the program and receiving public funds.

Such schools will also need to receive and maintain accreditation in specified grades, such as kindergarten through 12th grade, from independent agencies to continue to receive taxpayer funding.

The bill will need to pass in the Assembly before it could be signed into law.