Wisconsin’s Special Needs Scholarship Program, enacted in 2015, is the state’s fourth school voucher program. This program became available for families to use in the 2016–17 school year. Learn more about the program’s details, including eligibility, funding, regulations, and more, on this page.
Wisconsin began providing vouchers designated specifically for students with disabilities to attend private school in the 2016–17 school year.
For 2016–17, the voucher amount is $12,000. Beginning in 2017–18, voucher payments increase by the dollar amount equal to the dollar amount increase in general school aid to Wisconsin public schools.
Participating students must have an active Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and must have been enrolled in a Wisconsin public school for at least the entire prior school year. In the same school year, eligible students must also have applied to attend a public school in one or more nonresident school districts under Wisconsin’s open enrollment program and been rejected by the respective school boards or have otherwise been prohibited from attending those district schools. Students may continue participating in the program as long as they have an IEP and attend an eligible school until they turn 21 or graduate high school, whichever comes first.
Vouchers designed specifically for children with special needs have proven to be very beneficial for the children they serve. Wisconsin’s new program has a generous funding level, although consideration should be given to increasing funding for those whose needs demand greater expenditures. However, the first step to ensure the success of this voucher is to remove the requirement that a child must first be rejected by one or more public schools before being allowed to access a voucher to attend the school of the parent and child’s choice. Children with special needs face enough challenges in their lives. This program is designed to give new freedom to parents and children to choose whatever educational opportunity will best serve their needs, and so, it should remove, not create, obstacles that stand between those families and their freedom of choice.
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.
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