Wisconsin Assembly Taking Up Special-Needs Education Change

Judy Hartnett's picture
Thursday, March 8, 2012

Some students with disabilities in Wisconsin next school year could attend a private or a public school outside their home district with the help of a taxpayer-funded subsidy, under a bill being debated by the state Assembly late Tuesday.

If passed by the Assembly, the bill would go to the Senate. The Assembly also was expected to debate a separate bill to set limits on the state's private school voucher system so it doesn't expand beyond Milwaukee and eastern Racine County. If passed, that bill would be sent to Gov. Scott Walker.

The disabled students bill would create a statewide Special Needs Scholarship Program, which would allow a participating special-education student to transfer to another public, private or public charter school, with the receiving school accepting aid for that student and the school the student transfers from losing aid. The state subsidy would be worth more than $13,000 per pupil under the legislation.

The bill's lead sponsor, Rep. Michelle Litjens (R-Oshkosh) said the bill was for a minority of families with disabled students not doing well in their public school.

"This is giving them that option to choose a different school," Litjens said.

Supporters of the proposed program say special-needs children should be able to access fair amounts of funding no matter what school they attend, and that it puts power in the hands of parents to choose the best education option for their children.

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