Special Needs Scholarship Program grows statewide and at Kettle Moraine Lutheran

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Kettle Moraine Lutheran High, in Jackson, Wisconsin. (Submitted)

KML has grown in recent years. The school is holding an open house on Nov. 20, 2022, 1 to 3 p.m.

Wisconsin’s choice enrollment is growing. This is no surprise to School Choice Wisconsin given the widespread embrace of educational freedom in Wisconsin and around the country.

We are especially pleased to see the growth of the Special Needs Scholarship Program (SNSP), one of Wisconsin’s four choice programs. The program went from a headcount of 1,759 in 2021–22 to 2,217 in 22–23, growing more than 25 percent in one year. One school that’s embracing the program is Kettle Moraine Lutheran in Jackson. That school — with its beautiful facilities and setting — has seen its SNSP enrollment go from zero in 2017–18 to 29 in 22–23.

Narrative switch

“This year was a huge jump for us. I think the biggest class we’ve had up to this point has been six, the group that just graduated last year. I gained 15 freshmen this year and I’ve never had that many come in,” said special education specialist and Learning Center Administrator Sheila Krause during a recent ChoiceWords visit to the school.

KML President Jamie Luehring

“We continue to see growing numbers because we’ve switched that narrative where people think private schools don’t serve kids with special needs. We have been able to give both a Christian education and a high-quality education to these kids who have come to us and that’s been a major blessing,” said Jamie Luehring, Kettle Moraine Lutheran president and a champion of choice who serves as chair of School Choice Wisconsin Action’s board.

The school maintains the Learning Center in the school’s old library to serve special needs students and others who need a boost at any time. “The idea behind it is you’re going to have kids who struggle, whether it’s special needs, or whether they’re sick and they need support or there’s some mental health stuff going on, or they just have low motivation for school, and we need to help them move,” he said.

The program has grown from two workers to 16. “We have a full-time counselor on staff who started last year, so there’s a lot of mental health support,” said Luehring.  

“I’ve been very impressed by the support by the board, the administration and the faculty. The faculty really has come a long way in understanding what we do up here,” said Krause.

The school has partnered with the West Bend School District and West Bend Mutual Insurance in Project SEARCH, a program that helps children with disabilities in Washington County gain marketable job skills. Sometimes students will come for a fifth year for this program. 

“The big thing for me is, back in the old days, Christian education or this values education was not possible for students in this bucket. And parents are just so thankful that they can have it,” says Luehring.

‘Finding what they want’

KML special education specialist and Learning Center Administrator Sheila Krause

The school has just over 550 students this year and has grown by 170 students over the last nine years. It has more than 170 students in choice programs. The school exceeded expectations in its 2021–22 DPI Report Card.

Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School is supported by a federation of 27 WELS/ELS churches and their schools. The school pulls from seven counties and 17 school districts, as far north as Fond du Lac and from Milwaukee. The school has busing in some areas.

“People are finding what they want here. They’re able to see the values that we teach and we preach and that we share with families and they want to be a part of it. It’s a place where anytime people come and visit, they always say, ‘man, is everybody nice around here.’ We have a strong culture of joy, love and family that people want to be a part of.”

ChoiceWords is pleased to see the Special Needs Scholarship Program grow in Jackson and the state. Spread the word to any parent looking for the right environment for their children.

— School Choice Wisconsin

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