FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 22, 2014
Families of Students with Disabilities Applaud
Request for Federal Review of Voucher Program
Madison, WI – Wisconsin families of students with special needs are pleased to support Rep. Mark Pocan in his request for a federal review of Milwaukee’s voucher-school program, with an emphasis on examining disability issues. Given the recently-threatened return of the failed special needs vouchers proposal, coupled with the numerous allegations of disability-related discrimination in the Milwaukee voucher program, a thorough examination is long overdue.
“I am encouraged to see the prospect of getting some solid information about students with special needs in the Milwaukee voucher program,” said Anna Moffit, Madison parent of three children with disabilities. “The disability-discrimination complaints are real, and Rep. Pocan’s questions are more than reasonable. How can voucher expansion even be on the table, particularly the special needs vouchers, when such basic accountability and information is still lacking?”
Kevin Fech, parent from Cudahy, agrees that a federal response is clearly warranted. “One of my biggest concerns about the voucher program is the federal rights and protections under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that my son has in the public schools, but that the voucher schools are free to ignore,” he said. “The voucher schools want us to trust that they’ll do right by our most vulnerable kids, but don’t even want to tell the public how many students with disabilities they’re enrolling! To even consider a special needs voucher program when this level of obstruction is going on is not only dangerously wrong – it’s ridiculous.”
A federal review is particularly welcome in context of 2014’s proposed special needs voucher bill at federal level, which expired without action but will surely return despite families’ opposition. In an astonishing disregard for the federal rights of students with disabilities, the so-called Creating Hope and Opportunity for Individuals and Communities through Education (CHOICE) Act would amend the IDEA to allow federal IDEA funds to flow into private voucher schools, while explicitly exempting those schools from abiding by the IDEA itself!
Wisconsin must ensure that our students with disabilities are not cheated of their civil rights when educated with our tax dollars. The review proposed by Rep. Pocan is a crucial step in that direction, and must not be derailed by the predictable high-volume response from the deep-pocketed voucher lobby.
Meanwhile, the families of Stop Special Needs Vouchers are determined to continue to let our legislators and our communities know: special needs vouchers would be a harmful experiment with our most vulnerable students. Every special needs voucher proposal, every time, has been wrong for our students and wrong for Wisconsin.
For more background on concerns about special needs vouchers in Wisconsin, see:
For more information on Stop Special Needs Vouchers, a parent-led statewide grassroots group, see:
Facebook page — https://www.facebook.com/StopSpecialNeedsVouchers
Web site — http://www.stopspecialneedsvouchers.org
This release may also be found at the Wheeler Report: