I am a husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend. I believe in sharing my talents and experiences by giving back to the community by giving my time to coaching, church and especially to the disability community. I truly believe that all men and women are created equally.
Late last week, I was on a call discussing the voucher program for students with disabilities (AB110). As you may recall, I testified in front of the Education Committee to not support this bill, for a number of reasons.
One of the arguments for this bill that I have heard is that "the money follows the child". In theory, I suppose this could be true. But I have a hard time believing that the money set aside for individuals with disabilities is the true cost to educate them. What if the amount of money that is following the student is not enough to fully educate them? What happens to the student? What does the voucher, charter, private school do? Do they not fully educate the student? Does the family need to kick in the difference? Do they send the student back to the public school?
The state of Wisconsin does not calculate special education on a per pupil cost, but rather on the services the child receives. No two students are the same, some require more special services than others. Are schools going to be selective in the voucher students they bring in? Are those with more severe disabilities not going to be allowed in some schools? What if there is a change in condition of the student and they require more services after they arrive in the new school? Does the family now have to kick in the difference? Does the school now reject them and send them back to the public school?
I have heard stories where the private schools do not offer any of the additional services such as occupational, physical or speech therapy. Now parents have had to bring their children back to the public schools to receive the services. How can this additional time in the car be beneficial to the student? What is the point of going to a voucher school if you can not receive all of the services for your child? If the voucher school is receiving the "money that follows the child" is some of the money then sent back to the public school to help cover the costs of providing the services they are now providing that the voucher school is not?
I would guess that the number special education teachers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists and paraprofessionals are all hired based on the number of students they will be working with. What if one student leaves through the voucher program? Will a school district now be forced to reduce a position or two because of the loss this student? How will this affect the remaining students?
It is my understanding that the program that Wisconsin is looking at is the same as the McKay Scholarship program that is bing used in Florida. There was an interesting article recently in the Miami New Times about the McKay Scholarships http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2011-06-23/news/mckay-scholarship-program-sparks-a-cottage-industry-of-fraud-and-chaos/.
Is this really what Wisconsin wants to pattern a program from?