Today the ACLU of Wisconsin urged legislators to reject a plan that would undermine the quality of education for students with disabilities in Wisconsin.

While AB 110 would provide vouchers for students with disabilities to attend religious or private schools in Wisconsin, the bill wouldn’t ensure that voucher-subsidized schools would provide adequate services. Without holding these schools accountable to improved and consistent standards, this tax subsidy for religious and private schools would rob public schools of scarce resources.

“The ACLU of Wisconsin continues our objection to subsidizing religious and other private schools with taxpayer dollars while they refuse to be held to the same non-discrimination and accountability standards as the public school system,” said Executive Director Chris Ahmuty.

“Our flawed school funding formula already makes our neighborhood schools do more with less. This bill would make the problem worse by taking already limited funds away from the public school system and handing over funds to religious and private schools without assuring parents that those schools will adequately serve their children.”

The ACLU of Wisconsin has long been against the school voucher program in Milwaukee. Voucher schools are a misuse of taxpayer dollars and and do little to help ensure equal and adequate education for all Wisconsin students.

Last year, the ACLU of Wisconsin partnered with Disability Rights Wisconsin to file a federal disability discrimination claim against the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program over discrimination against students with disabilities. These students weren’t adequately supported or were outright rejected by voucher-dependent schools.

Other flaws in this bill include weak or non-existent requirements for voucher schools to regularly review a student’s Individualized Education Plan or provide certified teachers or services. Religious and private schools make their own assessments about what defines special education and parents have fewer rights and remedies if their child does not receive adequate services. The per-pupil amount of the voucher is capped, but the tuition of the school that receives the voucher is not. This means that parents who have more resources may use tax vouchers, while low-income families with special needs children must choose between giving up services or staying at their neighborhood school.

All Wisconsin students have an equal right to schools that adequately serve their educational needs. This bill will weaken public schools and give more funding to religious and private schools that do not have the same standards of accountability. Expanding the voucher scheme through this flawed disability scholarship plan would not provide meaningful or effective education reform in Wisconsin.