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May 2013

No Vouchers Press Conference-Wisconsin State Capitol

Mary Swifka–New London Parent May 22, 2013

Good afternoon. I am a parent of a child with a developmental disability and I oppose the statewide special needs voucher provision in the state budget. Our son Noah is a freshman in the New London school district. Thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Noah has had the right to learn in a non-segregated setting while benefiting from professional special education teachers and paraprofessionals. He has access to assistive technologies, support from therapists, and thrives in a safe learning environment.
 
Parents fought long and hard for decades to ensure their children were given those rights, but every one of those rights goes out the window if a family accepts a special needs voucher to a private school. Private schools offer limited accountability for educational quality or outcomes. They’re not required to have professional special education teachers and therapists on staff, and laws that protect children from seclusion and restraint do not apply in private schools. And private schools don’t have to accept and serve students of all abilities the way that public schools do.
 
Special needs vouchers must come out of the budget.  They are a bad choice for our children and a bad choice for Wisconsin.  
 

Stop Special Needs Vouchers Press Release – May 2

The following is a press release from Stop Special Needs Vouchers released on May 2, 2013.

Parents Agree With U.S. Department of Justice:
Vouchers Not Working for Students with Disabilities in Wisconsin

Madison – The families of Stop Special Needs Vouchers applaud a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice, communicating federal concern for discrimination against students with disabilities in the Milwaukee/Racine Parental Choice Program. The measures needed to assess and eliminate this discrimination, parents say, are so major that any new vouchers in Wisconsin should be considered out of the question. Stop Special Needs Vouchers renews the call to remove the special needs voucher proposal from the state budget, citing harmful and discriminatory implications for students and advocating that such a significant change to the education of students with disabilities must be debated in a standing education committee. The special needs voucher proposal was also confirmed as “non-fiscal policy” last week by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, and legislators from both parties have questioned whether policy of this nature belongs in a budget bill.

A number of members of Stop Special Needs Vouchers formed their opinions on vouchers based in part on discriminatory experiences when they tried to access education for their children in private schools. Lennise Vickers of Milwaukee experienced “smoke and mirrors” recruiting practices when she briefly enrolled her daughter Aquila, who has Emotional Behavior Disorder, in a Milwaukee voucher school several years ago. “I felt like I was duped. The voucher school teacher had no desire or training to help my daughter. When voucher schools take students with disabilities and public money, they need to follow every rule and guideline to make sure they are educated – and that’s not happening.”

Tari Raatz, whose 9-year-old son Patrick has autism, experienced private-school discrimination firsthand upon trying to explore her son’s educational options in Madison. “The private school said ‘No thank you,’ even when my husband and I offered to pay for a full time aide and that we would finance all of his needs for occupational therapy, speech/language, and all other needs. Special needs vouchers would only reflect that discrimination. We should not even be considering a new voucher program when the current vouchers are so flawed!”

The families of Stop Special Needs Vouchers statewide continue to advocate that the special needs voucher proposal be removed from Wisconsin’s budget. Wisconsin must not commit another dime to the expansion or creation of discriminatory voucher programs.

Parent Quotes

“No longstanding, statewide disability group has asked for these vouchers. In fact, these groups were not even consulted…” — Melissa from Beloit, mother to Rowenna

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