In Wisconsin, there is a debate about whether public funds should go to private schools. This specific debate is about private schools for special needs students.
The Special Needs Scholarship Program, which started in 2015, is at the center of this debate. In this program, children with disabilities are allowed to attend special private schools on vouchers paid for by taxpayers. Students are provided with these vouchers regardless of income.
The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has predicted that the cost of the Special Needs Scholarship Program will triple to about $10 million within the next year. This has sparked a lot of opposition for the program.
Opponents believe that it is unfair to use taxpayer money to fund private school bills—especially when many of the children who are being funded are not impoverished. The Special Needs Scholarship Program was approved in Wisconsin’s 2015-2017 state budget without the input of the public.
The increased costs that are expected in the next two years would have to be dealt with by either cutting services in public schools or making residents pay higher taxes. This is controversial because higher taxes can really break the bank for some home owners. Also, it does not seem fair that services should be cut in public schools just so that people in private schools are given more. In fact, the special education services in public may be suffering due to the fact that money is given to private schools.
According to a new rule that will take effect in Fall of 2018, 90% of the private school costs for special education children would be paid for by taxpayers, while only less than 26% of special education costs for public school children would be paid for via taxpayer money.
Proponents of the Special Needs Scholarship Program claim that it is not a problem because special needs students are really getting the education that they need. Also, all of the 28 schools who are participating in the program do not plan on incurring more than $12,207 for every student. It’s not like every single private school is going to start asking for infinity dollars per student.