In February 2016, SB 615 passed with Compromise Voucher Funding Amendment, permitting a child with a disability to apply for a $12,000 voucher and attend a private school. Only students with IEPs who have been attending a public school for the previous year and were declined to enroll in a different public school through the open enrollment program are eligible. There is no income requirement. Similar laws had been debated before, but failed because private schools do not have to follow the same rules as public schools with regards to students with special needs. In one of the voucher expansions this year, it passed.
Implications for Wisconsin Public Schools: According to Molly Beck of the Wisconsin State Journal, more than 400 students with disabilities are expected to attend private schools using taxpayer-funded vouchers, resulting in a $5 million reduction in state funding for public school districts (June 28) This follows a June 24th Beck article that states the amount of state money spent on each student using a private school voucher has increased by about 14 percent since 2010,while, at the same time, the amount of money the state spends on each public school student has decreased by about 4 percent.
This Tweet from the MacIver Institute, a Wisconsin-based conservative think tank, sums up one side, “This system is no longer going to deny children the educational options that they so richly deserve,” and this Tweet from Democratic Representative Peter Barca sums up the other side, “Assembly Democrats are now speaking out against #SB615, which will gut millions more from WI public schools.”
Connection for English Language Arts/ NCTE:
Repeated NCTE position statements urge schools to employ certified and licensed teachers who know and understand the students, content, and standards they are teaching. While many students with Individual Educational Plans will need minimal additional assistance, there are many that will need extensive and specialized help. Schools who accept learners have an obligation to meet student needs in order to have student fully develop the literacy skills.