Voucher Provisions in State Senate Republicans’ Budget Plan

After a period of relative quiet, voucher proponents have been active, pushing variety of proposals that appear to have made it into the package of K-12 education items agreed upon by the Senate and Assembly, as reflected in the Legislative Fiscal Bureau summary of the Senate Republican budget plan.

Here are some of the key provisions affecting voucher schools:

Statewide Voucher Program–Income Eligibility Limit:  Increase the annual family income eligibility level, beginning in the 2018-19 school year, so that a pupil could participate in the statewide voucher program with a family income of less than 220 percent of the federal poverty level rather than less than 185 percent of FPL as under current law.  (It is estimated that an additional 550 pupils could enter the statewide voucher program in 2018-19 as a result of this change.)

Voucher Schools–Virtual Education:  Allow private schools participating in a voucher program to establish a virtual (online) education program under which a teacher employed by the private voucher school is separated geographically from all or some of he pupils attending the course taught by the teacher at the private school and the instruction is provided online.  A similar change is proposed to allow private schools participating in  the special needs voucher program to establish virtual education programs (see below).(The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates this change would increase the cost of the statewide voucher program by $7.2 million in 2018-19.  This would be fully offset by an aid reduction and corresponding revenue limit adjustment to each voucher pupil’s resident school district.  Based on this cost estimate, it appears the change to allow online instruction would increase participation in the statewide voucher program by about 1,000 students in 2018-19.)

Special Needs Voucher Program–Eliminate Prior Year Open Enrollment Requirement: Delete current law requiring that for a pupil to be eligible to participate in the special education voucher program, the pupil must have applied to attend a non-resident public school district under the open enrollment program  and have been denied.  This change would first apply in 2018-19.  (It is estimated this change could increase the number of pupils participating in the special need voucher program by 50 pupils in 2018-19.)

Special Needs Voucher Program–Eliminate Prior Year Public School Enrollment Requirement:  Delete current law requiring that for a pupil to be eligible to participate in the special needs voucher program, the pupil must have been enrolled in a public school in Wisconsin for the entire school year immediately preceding the school year for which the pupil is applying for the program. This change would first apply in 2018-19.  (It is estimated this change could increase the number of pupils participating in the special needs voucher program by 200 pupils in 2018-19.)

Special Needs Voucher Program–Individualized Education Program Requirement: Specify that a child would be eligible to participate in the special needs scholarship program if the child has been evaluated by an individualized education program (IEP) team and determined to be eligible for special education and related services, regardless of whether the child has an IEP in place.  If the child does not have an IEP in place, require the private school attended by the child under the program to implement special education and related services agreed to by the private school and the child’s parent.

Special Needs Voucher Program–Virtual Education:  Allow a private school  participating in the special needs voucher program to establish a virtual (online) education program under which a teacher employed by the private voucher school is separated geographically from all or some of he pupils attending the course taught by the teacher at the private school and the instruction is provided online.  Current law applying to the special needs voucher program, including the per pupil payment amount (currently $12,000), pupil eligibility requirements and requirements for private schools, would apply to private schools offering a virtual education program.

Read More:  Wisconsin State Journal coverage