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June 2013

Fitzgerald says special needs voucher expansion coming back.

Stop Special Needs Vouchers celebrated the removal of the harmful special needs voucher proposal from the Wisconsin state budget proposal… but before the budget was even signed, the Wisconsin Reporter ran a story indicating that the proposal was slated to return in the fall.

Fitzgerald Says Special Needs Voucher Expansion Coming Back

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, left the door open for expansion of school choice for special needs students, saying the Senate will take a closer look at a controversial initiative that was left out of the Republican budget proposal this fall. 

“We didn’t address the special needs question,” Fitzgerald told reporters on Thursday in Mayville. “I think the reason for that is because there’s two different approaches. One is to address it with a scholarship, a voucher. The other is to address it with open enrollment.”

Disability rights advocates, who opposed the scholarship, are also trying to change open enrollment rules. 

“We are looking at ways to make the open enrollment law more usable for kids with special needs,” Monica Murphy, managing attorney for schools and civil rights at Disability Rights Wisconsin’s Milwaukee office, previously told Wisconsin Reporter. “They are covered under it, but there’s a lot of difficulty. It’s not quite as available for kids with special needs as regular kids.” 

Parents of special needs students who opposed the scholarship argued that the proposal deserved a public hearing and to go through the legislative process.


June 6, 2013

Wisconsin Families Appreciate JFC Removal of Special Needs Vouchers, 
Will Continue to Advocate for Students with Disabilities 

Madison, WI – All across Wisconsin, the families of Stop Special Needs Vouchers welcomed the good news on Wednesday morning that the Joint Finance Committee had removed the harmful special needs vouchers proposal from the state budget. The special needs vouchers would have funneled critical taxpayer funding out of public schools into private voucher schools that lack accountability and are not required to abide by the rights and protections of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Joanne Juhnke, parent advocate and chair of the Stop Special Needs Vouchers steering committee, promised that the group would continue its vigilance as well as working proactively toward improved inclusive public education. “We appreciate that legislators listened to families from across the state, expressing our concerns for the negative impact the special needs vouchers would have had for students with disabilities, and we intend to continue to work together on behalf of our children and their fellow students,” she said.

According to Pam DeLap, a parent who drove from Oshkosh to Madison to witness the late-night JFC deliberations, the removal of the special needs vouchers was welcome but grave concerns remain. “The defeat of the special needs vouchers is a victory for our children and the investment the state of Wisconsin makes in them through their public school education, but the statewide expansion of unaccountable school vouchers is a concern for students with disabilities as well. We heard in committee debate that voucher schools do not require certified special education teachers and need not abide by Wisconsin’s regulations on seclusion and restraint.”

“Wisconsin’s families and disability organizations have opposed the special needs vouchers from the beginning,” said Terri Hart-Ellis, a Whitefish Bay parent who also serves on the Stop Special Needs Vouchers steering committee. “We spoke up about the segregation and other harm that special needs vouchers can do, and the finance committee listened. We hope other states are watching.”

The commitment and dedication of Stop Special Neeeds Vouchers to our children, our students, and our collective Wisconsin future will remain constant and unwavering. For more information on the parent group Stop Special Needs Vouchers, see our Facebook page — https://www.facebook.com/StopSpecialNeedsVouchers


Parent Quotes

“The public schools are required to educate everyone, no matter the disability, and private schools don’t have that mandate.” — Joanne from Madison, mother to Miriam

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