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Reincarnation of Special Needs Voucher bills in the next legislative session, and why you should oppose it.
The background in a nutshell:
*There is no guarantee that the voucher will pay for the full cost of tuition. Low- and possibly moderate- income families who seek to attend a private school which has a tuition higher than the voucher amount will be unable to use the voucher, resulting in vouchers simply serving to subsidize families who can already afford to send their children to private school, rather than giving the monetary choice to families who cannot afford to do so.
* Families that take the vouchers give up their child’s rights as stated in federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) law. There is no requirement to follow a child's IEP, to monitor progress or meet state curriculum standards and learning targets. There is no requirement to revise a child's IEP every year, or reevaluate every 3yrs for continued special ed eligibility (as is required in IDEA). There is also no requirement to provide transition (to adulthood) services for voucher school students.
* If things go wrong at the voucher school, families have no recourse but to leave. They voucher money stays with the voucher school and the public school MUST take the child back even after losing funding to educate that child.
* Voucher schools will cherry pick children with mild disabilities and leave the most severe to be underserved (due to lack of public school funding) in public schools. Likely our children with Emotional/Behavioral challenges and mental health disorders would be most impacted.
* Voucher schools aren’t even required to employ special education teachers, occupational/physical/speech-language therapists, or licensed teachers at all!
- May 2011 testimony on AB110 from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction: "This bill strips special education students of due process rights and rights to services. It allows for the segregation of students based on disability. It will devastate funding for public education in select districts. It will result in the largest expansion of private school regulation ever seen in Wisconsin and, at the end of the day, no one will have any data to show if it resulted in a better education."
- WI Council on Children and Families opposed the bills. I believe the WI Council on Mental Health also authored a letter in opposition.
WI FACETS prepared a chart comparisonhttp://www.wifacets.org/documents/SchoolChoiceCharts.pdf
- DRW's Position Paper and testimony on SB486 and AB110 from last session: http://www.disabilityrightswi.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/test-SB486.pdf -"Since Wisconsin does not fund special education students on a per pupil basis, but this bill does exactly that -- it withdraws per pupil funding for collectively used services such as teachers, aides and therapists, from the public school, thereby increasing the likelihood that those who do not use the vouchers will not receive the services they need in public schools." - testimony from disability-rights attorney Jeff Spitzer Resnick against SB486, the Senate version of the special needs vouchers.-
Via the Isthmus... "In a December meeting with school superintendents and business managers from around the state, Assembly Education Committee Chair Steve Kestell (R-Sheboygan) told the group they can expect to see an expansion of private-school vouchers and the revival of a controversial special-education voucher bill, as well as a new push for state-authorized charter schools that operate independently of local school boards." http://www.thedailypage.com/isthmus/article.php?article=38658
- "Special Education Vouchers Lead to Rampant Fraud and Abuse in Florida: This is Not What We Want for Wisconsin Students with Disabilities" -- a press release last year from the Survival Coalition of Wisconsin Disability Organizations (June 2011) http://www.disabilityrightswi.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Survival-press-release-on-Florida-voucher-investigation-6-23.pdf
- Myths and Facts about Special Needs Vouchers: http://www.disabilityrightswi.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Myths-and-Facts-Special-Needs-Scholarships.pdf
- The academic failure scores in Milw's voucher schools- yet they will continue to be funded. Millions of our taxpayer dollars to pay for failed education for our kids.http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/scores-show-voucher-schools-need-accountability-t87s06b-181693671.html?ipad=y
Article from the Miami New Times, June 2011, on the Florida version of special needs vouchers: "It's like a perverse science experiment, using disabled school kids as lab rats and funded by nine figures in taxpayer cash." http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2011-06-23/news/mckay-scholarship-program-sparks-a-cottage-industry-of-fraud-and-chaos/
What can you do?
- Stay on top of the issue by signing up to receive information. Stop Special Needs Vouchers is a grassroots statewide parent group that now has a blog and an e-mail list, the better to reach people beyond Facebook and to send out future calls to action! To join the mailing list, send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org -- and, if you're willing, let us know what's your connection to the issue: parent, educator, other? Please let your non-Facebook friends know, too! SSNV facebook page, "like" it to stay abreasthttps://www.facebook.com/StopSpecialNeedsVouchers?fref=ts And the blogspot:http://stopspecialneedsvouchers.blogspot.com/2012/12/nearly-everyone-who-contacted-me-is.html
- Be prepared to voice your opposition and to ensure our kids with SED continue to receive the individually designed public school education they are entitled to, including transition to adulthood services for employment, post-high school learning and independent living.