2011 - 2012 LEGISLATURE
February 16, 2012 - Introduced by Senators Vukmir, Moulton, Galloway and
Darling, cosponsored by Representatives Litjens, Fields, Wynn, Bernier,
Bies, Brooks, Endsley, Farrow, Honadel, Jacque, Kleefisch, Knilans,
Knudson, Kooyenga, Kramer, Krug and Kuglitsch. Referred to Committee
1An Act to amend
20.255 (2) (cy), 115.77 (1), 115.791 (4), 121.08 (4) (c), 121.08 (4) 2
(d) and 121.54 (3); and to create
20.255 (2) (az), 115.7915, 118.60 (4s), 119.23 3
(4s), 121.05 (1) (a) 4. and 121.08 (4) (am) of the statutes; relating to: creating
4the Special Needs Scholarship Program for disabled pupils, granting
5rule-making authority, and making an appropriation.
Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
This bill establishes a Special Needs Scholarship Program. Under the program,
a child with a disability may receive a scholarship to attend a public school located
outside the pupil's school district of residence, or a private school, if all of the
following conditions are met:
1. The school has notified the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) of its
intent to participate in the program and the child has been accepted by the school.
2. If the school is a private school, it is approved as a private school by DPI or
3. An individualized education program (IEP) has been completed for the child.
4. In the previous school year, the child attended a public school, attended a
private school under a parental choice program (PCP), or did not attend school in this
The bill directs DPI to develop a document, for inclusion with an application,
comparing the rights of a child with a disability and his or her parent under state and
federal handicapped education law with the rights of a child with a disability under
the program created by this bill and federal handicapped education law.
A school that accepts a child under the program must notify DPI. Upon receipt
of the notice, DPI must notify the school board of the pupil's school district of
residence and determine the amount of the child's scholarship. The amount is the
lesser of the cost to the school the child is attending under the scholarship of
providing regular instruction, instructional and pupil support services, special
education and related services, and supplementary aids and services to the child, or
an amount equal to the statewide cost per public school pupil plus the state aid per
child with a disability. If the child is attending for less than a full school term, DPI
must prorate the amount of the scholarship.
DPI pays the scholarship directly to the school or school district that the child
will attend. The scholarship continues while the child attends a school eligible to
participate in the program until he or she graduates from high school or until the end
of the school term in which he or she turns 21, whichever comes first.
Under the bill, a pupil attending a private school, or a public school outside the
pupil's school district of residence, under the program is counted for state aid
purposes by the pupil's school district of residence. However, the state aid paid to
that school district is reduced by the total amount of scholarships paid by DPI for
pupils who reside in that school district.
Each private school participating in the program must comply with applicable
health and safety laws; hold a valid certificate of occupancy; comply with federal law
that prohibits discrimination against any person on the basis of race, color, or
national origin; conduct criminal background investigations of its employees and
exclude from employment any person not permitted to hold a teaching license as the
result of an offense and any person who might reasonably be believed to pose a threat
to the safety of others; provide to each applicant a profile of the school's special
education program; and implement the child's most recent IEP.
The private school must also annually submit to DPI a school financial report
prepared by a certified public accountant. If the private school expects to receive at
least $50,000 in scholarships during a school year, it must either file a surety bond
with DPI or provide DPI with information demonstrating that it has the ability to
pay an amount equal to the total amount of scholarships that it expects to receive.
The bill provides that if a child attends a private school under the program, his
or her school district of residence must provide transportation to and from the school
if the school is located at least two miles from the child's residence, the child resides
in the private school's attendance area, and the private school is situated within the
school district of residence or not more than five miles beyond the boundaries of the
If the child attends a public school under the program, the child's parent is
responsible for transporting the child to and from school unless transportation is
required in the child's IEP. If the latter applies, the school district that the child
attends is responsible for transporting the child. The bill allows a low-income pupil
to apply to DPI for reimbursement of transportation costs.
The bill authorizes DPI to bar a school from participating in the program if the
school intentionally and substantially misrepresents information required under
the bill, routinely fails to comply with financial standards, uses a pupil's scholarship
for any purpose other than educational purposes, or fails to refund any scholarship
overpayments to the state.
Finally, the bill directs the Legislative Audit Bureau to contract for a study of
the program. The results of the study must be reported to the legislature by January
For further information see the state and local fiscal estimate, which will be
printed as an appendix to this bill.
The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do
enact as follows:
SB486, s. 1
20.255 (2) (az) of the statutes is created to read:
(az) Special Needs Scholarship Program.
A sum sufficient to pay the 3
special needs scholarships under s. 115.7915.
SB486, s. 2
20.255 (2) (cy) of the statutes is amended to read:
(cy) Aid for transportation; open enrollment and special needs
The amounts in the schedule to reimburse parents for the costs of 7
transportation of open enrollment
pupils under ss.
118.51 (14) (b),
118.52 (11) (b).
SB486, s. 3
115.77 (1) of the statutes is amended to read:
In sub. (1m) (a) to (d), except as provided in s. 118.51 (12) (a) and (b) 11
2., if a child with a disability is attending a public school in a nonresident school 12
district under s. 115.7915,
or 121.84 (1) (a) or (4), "local educational agency" 13
means the school district that the child is attending.
SB486, s. 4
115.791 (4) of the statutes is amended to read:
Subject to s. 115.77 (1m) (d) and (e), this section does not require 16
a local educational agency to pay the cost of education, including special education 17
and related services, of a child with a disability at a private school or facility,
18including a child with a disability attending a private school under s. 115.7915,
local educational agency made a free appropriate public education available to the 2
child and the child's parents elected to place the child in a private school or facility.
SB486, s. 5
115.7915 of the statutes is created to read:
4115.7915 Special Needs Scholarship Program. (1) Definition.
In this 5
(a) "Eligible school" means a public school located in this state but outside the 7
pupil's school district of residence, including a charter school, or a private school 8
located in this state.
(b) "Services plan" has the meaning given in 34 CFR 300.37
10(1m) Scholarship requirements.
Beginning in the 2012-13 school year, a child 11
with a disability shall receive a scholarship under this section to attend an eligible 12
school if all of the following apply:
(a) The school district in which the eligible public school is located, the eligible 14
charter school, or the eligible private school notified the department of its intent to 15
participate in the program under this section. The notice shall specify the number 16
of pupils who may participate in the program under this section for whom the school 17
(b) The school, if a private school, is approved by the state superintendent 19
under s. 118.165 (2) or is accredited by the Wisconsin North Central Association, 20
Wisconsin Religious and Independent Schools Accreditation, the Independent 21
Schools Association of the Central States, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod 22
School Accreditation, National Lutheran School Accreditation, the diocese or 23
archdiocese within which the private school is located, or any other organization 24
recognized by the National Council for Private School Accreditation as of the August 25
1 preceding the school term for which the scholarship is awarded.
(c) An individualized education program or services plan has been completed 2
for the child.
(d) The child attended a public school, attended a private school under s. 118.60 4
or 119.23, or did not attend school in this state, for the entire school year immediately 5
preceding the school year for which the child first receives a scholarship under this 6
(e) The child, or the child's parent on behalf of the child, has submitted an 8
application to the eligible school, on a form prepared by the department, for a 9
scholarship under this section to attend the eligible school. The application shall 10
include the document developed by the department under sub. (2) (a). An application 11
may be made, and a child may begin attending an eligible school under this section, 12
at any time during the school year.
(f) The child has been accepted by the school district in which the eligible public 14
school is located, the eligible charter school, or the eligible private school.
15(1s) Acceptance of pupils.
If an eligible school receives more applications 16
under sub. (1m) (e) than the number of pupils specified in the notice under sub. (1m) 17
(a), it shall select pupils on a random basis except that it may give preference to 18
siblings of pupils who are already attending the eligible school.
19(2) Department duties.
(a) 1. The department shall develop a document for 20
inclusion with an application under sub. (1m) (e), and revise it as necessary, 21
comparing the rights of a child with a disability and of his or her parent under this 22
subchapter, other than this section, and 20 USC 1400
, with the rights of a 23
child with a disability and of his or her parent under this section and 20 USC 1400 24
2. Receipt by an applicant of the document developed under subd. 1., 2
acknowledged in a format prescribed by the department, constitutes notice that the 3
applicant has been informed of his or her rights under this section and 20 USC 1400 4
. Subsequent acceptance of a scholarship under this section constitutes the 5
applicant's informed consent to the rights specified in the document.
(b) The governing body of an eligible school that accepts a child under sub. (1m) 7
(f) shall notify the department. Upon being notified, the department shall do all of 8
1. Notify the school board of the pupil's school district of residence that the pupil 10
has been awarded a scholarship under this section. The school board shall, within 11
3 days of receiving the notice, provide the department and the governing body of the 12
eligible school that accepted the pupil with a copy of the pupil's individualized 13
2. Determine the amount of the pupil's scholarship. The amount shall be the 15
lesser of the following: