2013 - 2014 LEGISLATURE
January 30, 2014 - Introduced by Senators Vukmir,
Darling and Farrow,
cosponsored by Representatives
Jagler, Knudson, Tittl, Jacque, Kleefisch,
Sanfelippo, Strachota, Pridemore, Endsley, Rodriguez, Thiesfeldt,
Bernier, Klenke, Skowronski and Knodl. Referred to Committee on
1An Act to amend
20.255 (2) (ac), 20.255 (2) (cy), 115.77 (1), 115.791 (4), 118.305 2
(1) (h) and 121.54 (3); and to create
20.255 (2) (az), 115.7915, 118.40 (2r) (e) 5., 3
118.60 (4s) and 119.23 (4s) of the statutes; relating to: creating a Special Needs
4Scholarship Program for disabled pupils, granting rule-making authority, and
5making an appropriation.
Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
This bill establishes a Special Needs Scholarship Program. Under the program,
beginning in the 2014-15 school year, a child with a disability may receive a
scholarship to attend a public school located outside the pupil's school district of
residence, a charter school, or a private school, if all of the following conditions are
1. The child has applied to attend a public school outside of his or her school
district of residence under the Open Enrollment Program and was rejected by the
school board of the nonresident school district or was prohibited from attending
school in a nonresident school district by the school board of the child's resident
2. 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.
3. If the school is a private school, it is approved as a private school by DPI or
4. An individualized education program (IEP) has been completed for the child.
5. With certain exceptions, the child attended a public school in this state in the
previous school year.
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,
plus the per pupil operating and debt service costs, 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, the total amount appropriated as state school equalization aid
is reduced by the total amount of scholarships paid by DPI to schools and school
districts under the program, as described above. A pupil attending a private school,
a public school outside the pupil's school district of residence, or an independent
charter school under the program is not counted for state aid purposes by the pupil's
school district of residence.
Each private school participating in the program must comply with applicable
health and safety laws; hold a valid certificate of occupancy if the municipality in
which the school is located issues such certificates; 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; implement the child's most recent IEP; and comply with the restrictions on
the use of seclusion and physical restraint that currently apply to public and charter
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 25 percent of the total amount of scholarships that it expects
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:
20.255 (2) (ac) of the statutes is amended to read:
(ac) General equalization aids.
The amounts in the schedule for the 3
payment of educational aids under ss. 121.08, 121.09, 121.095, 121.105,
and subch. VI of ch. 121, less the amount appropriated under par. (az)
20.255 (2) (az) of the statutes is created to read:
(az) Special Needs Scholarship Program.
A sum sufficient to pay the 7
special needs scholarships under s. 115.7915.
(cy) Aid for transportation; open enrollment and, course options, and
11special needs scholarships.
The amounts in the schedule to reimburse parents for
the costs of transportation of pupils under ss. 115.7915,
118.51 (14) (b),
and 118.52 2
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) 5
2., if a child with a disability is attending a public school in a nonresident school 6
district under s. 115.7915,
or 121.84 (1) (a) or (4), "local educational agency" 7
means the school district that the child is attending.
115.791 (4) of the statutes is amended to read:
Subject to s. 115.77 (1m) (d) and (e), this section does not require 10
a local educational agency to pay the cost of education, including special education 11
and related services, of a child with a disability at a private school or facility,
12including a child with a disability attending a private school under s. 115.7915,
if the 13
local educational agency made a free appropriate public education available to the 14
child and the child's parents elected to place the child in a private school or facility.
115.7915 of the statutes is created to read:
16115.7915 Special Needs Scholarship Program. (1) Definition.
In this 17
(a) "Eligible school" means a public school located in this state but outside the 19
pupil's school district of residence; a charter school located in this state, including a 20
virtual charter school; or a private school located in this state.
(b) "Services plan" has the meaning given in 34 CFR 300.37
22(1m) Scholarship requirements.
Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, a child 23
with a disability shall receive a scholarship under this section to attend an eligible 24
school if all of the following apply:
(a) The child applied to attend a public school in one or more nonresident school 2
districts under s. 118.51 for the same school year for which he or she is submitting 3
an application under par. (f), and all of the following occurred:
1. The child was rejected by the school boards of all the nonresident school 5
districts to which he or she applied under s. 118.51 (3) (a), (3m) (a), or (7); or was 6
prohibited from attending public school in all the nonresident school districts to 7
which he or she applied under s. 118.51 (3m) (d), (7), or (12) (b) 1.
2. If the child's parent appealed any school board decision under subd. 1., the 9
department affirmed the decision.
(b) The school district in which the eligible public school is located, the eligible 11
charter school, or the eligible private school notified the department of its intent to 12
participate in the program under this section. The notice shall specify the number 13
of pupils who may participate in the program under this section for whom the school 14
(c) The eligible school, if a private school, is approved by the state 16
superintendent under s. 118.165 (2) or is accredited by the Wisconsin North Central 17
Association, Wisconsin Religious and Independent Schools Accreditation, the 18
Independent Schools Association of the Central States, Wisconsin Evangelical 19
Lutheran Synod School Accreditation, National Lutheran School Accreditation, the 20
diocese or archdiocese within which the private school is located, or any other 21
organization recognized by the National Council for Private School Accreditation, as 22
of the August 1 preceding the school term for which the scholarship is awarded.
(d) An individualized education program or services plan has been completed 24
for the child.
(e) The child attended a public school in this state for the entire school year 2
immediately preceding the school year for which the child first receives a scholarship 3
under this section.
(f) The child, or the child's parent on behalf of the child, has submitted an 5
application to the eligible school, on a form prepared by the department, for a 6
scholarship under this section to attend the eligible school. The application shall 7
include the document developed by the department under sub. (2) (a). An application 8
may be made, and a child may begin attending an eligible school under this section, 9
at any time during the school year.
(g) The child has been accepted by the school district in which the eligible public 11
school is located, the eligible charter school, or the eligible private school.