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First year figures for Special Needs Scholarship Program announced

Friday, October 21, 2016


Tom McCarthy, DPI Communications Director, (608) 266-3559

MADISON — The Department of Public Instruction today announced 2016-17 school year enrollment figures for the newly created Special Needs Scholarship Program (SNSP).

Student enrollment in the SNSP is determined by counts that take place on the third Friday in September. In its first year, 206 students received vouchers to attend a private school, which is 202.4 full-time equivalent (FTE) students. In most cases, one student counts as one FTE. However, in certain cases, the FTE can be less. For example, depending on services provided, a 4-year-old kindergarten (K4) student may be counted as 0.5 FTE or 0.6 FTE. For the 2016-17 school year, each participating private school may receive a voucher payment of $12,000 per FTE. The overall cost of the program is estimated at $2.4 million for the first year.

To be eligible for a special needs voucher, a student must be enrolled in a public school district for the entire previous school year, have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or services plan that is in effect, and have been denied a seat through the Public School Open Enrollment program. Alternative eligibility criteria were written into the law for the first year of the SNSP. Those criteria allow students who were not attending a public school for the entire prior school year to be eligible for a special needs voucher only if the student had an IEP or services plan that was developed or implemented between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2016, and met the open enrollment denial requirements between the 2011‑12 and 2015-16 school years.

The SNSP is paid for through a deduction in state aid applied to the public school district where the student resides. Pupils in the SNSP are included in the resident public school district’s membership for state general aid and revenue limit purposes. If the resident school district’s general school aid payments are insufficient to cover the SNSP cost, the department will deduct the remaining amount from other state aid payments the district will receive.

Students who are enrolled in the SNSP are, by and large, treated as parentally placed private school students. Private schools accepting students are required to implement the IEP or services plan of SNSP students as modified by agreement between the private school and the student’s parent or guardian, but the student is no longer entitled to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) or the legal remedies provided by an IEP. Additionally, a participating private school may charge tuition and fees above and beyond the $12,000 voucher payment that the school receives from the state.

NOTES: A list of school districts that have students receiving Special Needs Scholarship Program vouchers to attend a private school is in the official news release. More information about the SNSP, including a list of participating schools, there enrollments as well as financial impacts, can be found on the SNSP: Data and Reports page.

Official Release