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March 2013

Superintendent Election – April 2

Be sure to VOTE on Tuesday April 2!

There are two candidates for statewide superintendent of schools for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction: current superintendent Tony Evers, and Assembly Representative Don Pridemore.  Links to their statements in the Capital Times are below.

Tony Evers
Link to Capital Times article here.
“I am leading the charge against the radical expansion of private school vouchers.”

Rep. Don Pridemore
Link to Capital Times article here.
“We must not stand in the way of voucher expansion.”

In addition, the candidates attended a forum on March 1, 2013 to discuss their policies and priorities for special education in Wisconsin. This was a non-partisan forum, and Disability Rights Wisconsin compiled a guide to the forum. Each candidate was asked the same set of questions about special education, covering a variety of topics from funding to vouchers to seclusion and restraint. You can read the guide here.

Please remember to vote on Tuesday, April 2!

Special Needs Voucher Survey

Please take 5 minutes to complete this survey with your opinions and stories on special needs vouchers, and then share with your networks. Wisconsin parents, educators, school officials, community members — this survey is for you! Results will be shared with legislators.

Participants do not need to have a child receiving special education services. This survey is for any Wisconsin citizen.


Call to Action – JFC Budget Hearings

The Joint Finance Committee schedule for upcoming public hearings on the state budget is complete, and listed below.

We’d like to get a panel of people to testify together on the special needs vouchers at each hearing — we’ll coordinate with other organizations on this!

 If you can attend, please send e-mail to stopspecialneedsvouchers@gmail.com and let us know which hearing works for you.

Public Hearing Schedule:

– Thursday, April 4 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Greendale High School Auditorium 6801 Southway Greendale, WI 53129
– Monday, April 8 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Lambeau Field Legends Club Room – 4th Level Lambeau Field Atrium 1265 Lombardi Avenue Green Bay, WI 54304
– Wednesday, April 10 (please note updated location) 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Kalahari Resort Suites 2 and 7 (Main Level) 1305 Kalahari Drive Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965
– Thursday, April 18 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Baldwin-Woodville High School Auditorium 1000 13th Avenue Baldwin, WI 54002

Stop Special Needs Vouchers Press Release – March 22, 2013

Families Join Superintendent Tony Evers in Opposition to Special Needs Vouchers 

Madison, WI – Members of Stop Special Needs Vouchers, a parent-led statewide grassroots group, expressed appreciation for State Superintendent Tony Evers’ testimony before the Joint Finance Committee on Thursday. In his testimony for the Department of Public Instruction, Superintendent Evers called the special needs vouchers proposal in Governor Walker’s 2013-2015 budget “a dangerous experiment with our most vulnerable students.” Parents of students with disabilities, and former students themselves, attended the hearing to support Supt. Evers in urging the removal of the vouchers from the budget and in his call for increasing funding for special education in public schools.

Superintendent Evers pointed out that parents who used the special needs vouchers to attend private schools would give up their rights and protections under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and that private voucher schools would not be required to provide special education services or be held accountable for student needs.

“I was very encouraged to hear not only Supt. Evers voicing some of my own heart-wrenching fears about special needs vouchers – but was almost moved almost to tears by the passion demonstrated by Senator Wirch and Representative Mason when they also spoke about their concerns,” said Tammie Hefty of Mount Horeb, whose 8-year-old daughter Evie has WAGR Syndrome. “I just hope everyone was listening and takes to heart what is at stake for our children here – these vouchers absolutely must be removed from the budget.”

Amber Gilberg of Eau Claire, who was recently crowned Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin 2013, also attended the hearing on behalf of Stop Special Needs Vouchers. She pointed out, “The federally-required supports and services I received in public school made it possible for me to graduate at the top of my high school class at Black River Falls. These vouchers, in a terrible contrast, would send tax dollars from public schools into private schools that aren’t even all required to have accessible facilities for students who use wheelchairs, let alone provide special education services!”

The families of Stop Special Needs Vouchers continue to advocate that the special needs voucher proposal beremoved from the state budget, so that the legislation can have a separate public hearingin an educationcommittee where its shortcomings can be fully exposed.

For a .pdf of our press release, please follow the link here.

Disability Advocacy Day – Thank You!

Yesterday, hundreds of advocates gathered at the state capital to speak with their legislators about disability issues.

Over 400 advocates attended – visiting 90 percent of our state legislators!

Stop Special Needs Vouchers would like to send out a big thank you to all who participated. Our message was heard loud and clear yesterday!

If you weren’t able to participate yesterday, please consider sending an email or calling your legislator to talk about special needs vouchers. Need help crafting your message? Check out this excellent handout from the Board for People with Developmental Disabilities. More ideas can be found on our Take Action page.

Stop Special Needs Vouchers to Host Listening Session – April 11

Stop Special Needs Vouchers will be hosting a listening session in Milwaukee on April 11.

Families, community members, educators, and professionals who are interested in learning how Special Needs Vouchers may impact all students.

Learn about family perspectives and experiences from parents of children with and without special education needs. Understand the impact Special Needs Vouchers will have on education funding from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

540 S. 1st St.
Milwaukee, WI 53204

Thursday, April 11th from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

This event is hosted by Stop Special Needs Vouchers.

For more information, contact stopspecialneedsvouchers@gmail.com

For a PDF file you can easily email or print out, please follow this link.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Press Event Speech, Karl and Mary Pierick

Presented at the Capital in Madison, February 18, 2013

My name is Karl Pierick, and this is my wife Mary. We have 2 children: Brady, 17 and Emma, 14. Emma has a form of Dwarfism, Autism and a seizure disorder.

I am so proud to be a citizen of Wisconsin! For decades we have been the gold standard in public education. People move here for our public schools, and teachers get hired on the spot in other states when they say they have a degree from Wisconsin! This is who we are!

Anything that defines you as a State must be protected. You can’t just rush an idea like special needs vouchers through without a hearing and hope it works out for us. When you do that, you end up like the other states that have tried this.

Like in Florida, where the Miami New Times reported that there is so much fraud and corruption with their special needs vouchers that the state can’t keep up with prosecuting them or even shutting them down, costing the state millions. The article said Florida’s McKay voucher program was “like a perverse science experiment, using disabled school kids as lab rats and funded by nine figures in taxpayer cash.”

Some people say that bad voucher schools can’t really happen, because families won’t keep sending their kids there. But guess what? Parents keep sending students to bad voucher schools in Florida anyway, and those schools keep raking in the tax money.

Before we even think of making a huge change like this, we have to discuss this important issue together so we do the right thing for our state. Like we have done Education right for years! We must continue to be the gold standard for education in this country.

I am a teacher at a very prestigious school here in Madison. We have sent our children to public schools because we believe in them. We work as a team and we make it the best for both of our kids.

Many can’t do that for many reasons, a single parent working 3 jobs or unfamiliar with their disability education rights, whatever the reason may be, they have to trust the school to do what is best for their child.

And when you let a voucher school get away with not following the same rules, like not having a legally enforceable IEP, or using unlicensed teachers, or not having to compare test scores to public schools, then the those families will end up suffering even more than they already do.

We strongly encourage Governor Walker not to jeopardize our great state’s reputation — to take special needs vouchers back out of the budget and instead discuss if this is a good road to take and how can we make public education better for all our kids!

Stop Special Needs Vouchers Press Release, 3/8/2013

For Immediate Release:
March 8, 2013

Parents Support Legislators’ Concerns on Special Needs Vouchers

Madison, WI — Parents of students with disabilities from across the state hailed comments from State Senators Michael Ellis and Luther Olsen, expressing their opposition to the deeply-flawed special needs voucher proposal in the Wisconsin state budget. Stop Special Needs Vouchers, a parent-led statewide grassroots group, applauded Senator Ellis and Senator Olsen yesterday for voicing their voucher concerns, and for proposing to allow a per-pupil increase in public school spending statewide.

Madeline Borkin of Cedarburg, whose 7-year-old son Jacob has Down Syndrome, praised the senators’ statements. “We appreciate the support from Senators Ellis and Olsen, together with so many of their colleagues. It’s so helpful to have legislators on both sides of the aisle recognizing that special needs vouchers are not the answer for students with disabilities in Wisconsin!”

Tari Raatz of Madison, whose 9-year-old son Patrick has autism, agreed. “These special needs vouchers are risky for students who would use them, and harmful for students with more intense needs like my son who would remain in the public schools. We should be using the state budget to support our public schools, not for detrimental policy changes like special needs vouchers.”

The parents of Stop Special Needs Vouchers continue to advocate that the special needs voucher proposal be removed from the state budget, so that the legislation can have a separate public hearing in an education committee where its shortcomings could be fairly examined.

For more background on concerns about special needs vouchers in Wisconsin, see: http://tinyurl.com/Vouchers2013
For more information on the parent group Stop Special Needs Vouchers, see:
Facebook page — https://www.facebook.com/StopSpecialNeedsVouchers
Blog — http://stopspecialneedsvouchers.blogspot.com

PDF Version of this Press Release


Stop Special Needs Vouchers is comprised of Wisconsin families committed to promoting quality public-school choices for all students and stopping harmful special needs vouchers.

Parent Quotes

“Voucher proposals do not even require private schools to accept children with disabilities!” — Mary from New London, mother to Noah

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