NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Expanding the school voucher program will be the most controversial part of Governor Walker’s proposed budget. It’s possible that Republicans from Green Bay and/or Superior might cast votes against it, for fear of a backlash from their local school interests. To some, school vouchers are a great idea so long as it’s happening somewhere else.
There’s a lesser-known part of the voucher program that’s received less attention. For the first time kids with learning disabilities would qualify for vouchers to attend private schools that are willing to take them. Critics say private schools will take the children with only slight disabilities; a mild case of autism for instance, with more difficult cases would remain in the public schools with less money to provide services.
But there’s an equally strong argument in favor of extending school choice to disabled students. It goes like this:
Through pre-natal testing, many disabilities can be diagnosed before a child is born. Many of those children are aborted. The families who decide to bring those babies to term are often deeply religious and are instructed by their faith about the inherent value of all human life. Those are the very families that are most likely to want a religious education for the children, yet cannot have it without a voucher program. In Wisconsin vouchers are already being used to send non-disabled kids to private and/or religious schools. If those schools are willing to take on disabled students, why shouldn’t the program be extended to them?
I think expanding the voucher program will be tall order for the Governor, and there are dozens of budget battles that will be fought over the next few weeks. I also think pushing this big rock up a steep hill is worth the effort.