Republican Gov. Scott Walker will be on a national education stage tonight to tout his efforts to expand charter school and voucher programs, but he is running into obstacles back home, and not just from those you might expect.
At an Assembly Education Committee hearing last week, for example, a bill Walker backs that would allow parents of special education students to use state tax dollars to pay for private school tuition hit significant roadblocks. In fact, the Republican chair of the committee, Rep. Steve Kestell of Elkhart Lake, called the funding mechanism for the legislation in its current form a “fatal flaw” in a telephone interview Friday.
“The bill is an intriguing proposal,” Kestell says. “Where we have a big challenge is how to pay for it.”
Kestell and other representatives grilled the authors of the bill during committee testimony. The language of the proposal appears to be taken fairly literally from generic legislation used in other states that have passed special education voucher programs. Kestell says the legislation would have to be “Wisconsinized” to be acceptable.
The bill was also sharply criticized by disability rights groups, who say it would strip hard-won legal rights from families with special-needs children, and by the state Department of Public Instruction, which faults the bill for demanding no accountability from private schools for actually providing the special education services that would be the basis for the vouchers.