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Plan saves public schools $1 million in payments to parents who drive children to private schools

Wisconsin public schools could save more than $1 million a year under a transportation measure that was just put into the new state budget.

The Joint Finance Committee agreed to end the requirement that schools pay parents for each of the children they drive to the same private school, if they send more than one.

In other words, they'd get reimbursed for one child, and that's it.

Public schools are required to bus private school youngsters but if the busing of a private student is more than 1.5 times the average distance for the public students, a district can pay parents to drive the kids themselves.

The amount of the payment varies, but it's about $400-500 a year per child in Madison.

The total payments statewide are about $3.5 million a year.

School officials say it would help their strapped budgets if they could pay parents by the trip instead of by the child.

But John Huebscher of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference says districts get state transportation aid for each child, and they should be passing it on.

He calls the new measure an added fee for parents who already struggle to pay public school taxes plus private school tuition.

Rep. Robin Vos, R-Caledonia, says he'll try to amend the measure once the budget reaches his house next week.