Wisconsin’s long-running public school choice program is facing a federal court challenge that argues it discriminates against disabled students. The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed the lawsuit in federal district court Wednesday, on behalf of three families of disabled children.
The annual Open Enrollment period allows public school students to apply for a spot in any other public school in the state. However, districts are not required to accept any students from outside their boundaries and they can deny admission to any disabled applicants if the requested district is not equipped to handle a particular situation. The lawsuit contends that it’s unconstitutional for schools to be allowed to accept traditional students but not those with special needs.
The three districts the group singled out were all in southeast Wisconsin; Elkhorn, Muskego-Norway, and Greendale. They’re among the defendants, along with state School Superintendent Tony Evers and the Department of Public Instruction. In response to the lawsuit, DPI released the following statement:
“This is a complaint about current Wisconsin state law. Once the notice is served on this action it will be forwarded to the Wisconsin Department of Justice for representation. The recently submitted Department of Public Instruction biennial budget request provides lawmakers with a path to improve access to open enrollment for students with disabilities. We will continue to encourage the Governor to include this in his budget.”
WRN’s Bob Hague contributed to this report.