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November 2014

A Letter to Governor Walker

A powerful and passionate letter to  Governor Walker from Sheila Plotkin of McFarland.


Dear Governor Walker,

Rep. John Jagler wants to revive his failed special needs vouchers proposal. He needs your support. I am writing to urge you not to give it.

I am a retired teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing. For 20 of my 28 years in the Milwaukee Public Schools, I served as the program’s diagnostic teacher. I assessed hundreds of kids, some of them with multiple special needs. I taught in-service classes to both special needs and regular education teachers. My experience showed me that even the most dedicated, eager-to-learn teachers needed a great deal of time and exposure to gain an understanding of how to teach special needs kids. It can be a complicated and difficult task to devise the individualized instruction necessary to give them what they need. But, they deserve nothing less.

Less is what they’ll get in unaccountable education-for-profit schools. They will not be protected by IDEA. They will not be assured of trained staff or therapists. They can be rejected when it becomes clear they “don’t fit”. The for-profit school administration will keep the taxpayer’s money. Meanwhile, their public school has been deprived of essential, public funds. With fewer resources, that school must continue to provide special needs students with an appropriate education as the law requires.

Given that there is no research to prove that regular education students do better in education-for-profit settings, it is irresponsible at best, criminal at worst, to lure special needs students into this educational dead end.

You claim to fight for Wisconsin’s hard-working taxpayers. We can barely afford our public school system now. We cannot support a for-profit system too.

Governor, our special needs children are relying on your good will and common sense. You have a responsibility to protect them from becoming cash cows milked by profiteers. You owe it to them and to their parents to set aside your ideology, to reject the demands of your deep-pocketed donors, and to stand up for these youngsters’ rights. Their future is in your hands.

Thank you.


Sheila Plotkin
McFarland, WI

Families Promise to Keep Speaking Out: Special Needs Vouchers are Still Bad News

November 21, 2014

Families Promise to Keep Speaking Out:
Special Needs Vouchers are Still Bad News

Madison, WI – In the wake of recent headlines that “promise” the return of the failed special needs vouchers proposals in Wisconsin, families of students with special needs have some promises of their own.

“I can promise you this: families like mine are still just as opposed to these voucher schemes as we were eight months ago,” says Terri Hart-Ellis of Whitefish Bay, mom to 11-year-old Addie who has Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome. “Last winter we brought over a thousand signatures and stories from across Wisconsin to the legislature, pointing out how special needs vouchers would weaken our neighborhood schools and how voucher students lose their special education rights. Our families have spoken out time and again against these harmful proposals, and it’s time for the legislature to listen!”

Kelli Simpkins of Madison, whose 13-year-old son Mickey has epilepsy, promises to continue raising her voice as well. “We should be talking about strengthening special education funding in the public schools, and the proposals that are already on the table to make open enrollment more equitable by eliminating ‘undue financial burden’ denials for students with disabilities. Why in the world are we still re-hashing voucher proposals that would let fly-by-night schools set up in Wisconsin to take advantage of our children?”

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 dangerous 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: http://tinyurl.com/coqrrsn
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


Families of Students with Disabilities Applaud Special Education Funding, Open Enrollment Proposal

Families of Students with Disabilities Applaud Special Education Funding, Open Enrollment Proposal

Date: 10 November 2014

Madison, WI – The families of Stop Special Needs Vouchers have multiple reasons to cheer the budget proposal released today by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). The proposal would strengthen our state’s investment in students with disabilities by increasing special education funding, and would also improve equity in Wisconsin’s open enrollment program. Stop Special Needs Vouchers appreciates the budget’s responsiveness to parent perspectives statewide. The resulting proposal bears out our contention that addressing open enrollment disparities for students with special needs can clearly be achieved without turning to harmful special needs vouchers.

The proposal brings crucial support for students with disabilities at a time when special education funding has been frozen for six years, yet costs have continued to rise. The DPI budget proposal would boost state funding for special education up to 30% of district costs by 2017, finally reversing the multi-decade decline in the percentage of state reimbursement for special education costs. The high cost fund, which supports districts to educate nearly 1,000 children with more significant challenges statewide, would increase from 45% to full reimbursement.

Meanwhile, the proposal addresses concerns of families of students with disabilities who wish to move their child to a neighboring school district, but have faced denials that were not present for students without disabilities. The proposal removes discriminatory barriers through re-structuring open enrollment funding for students with disabilities.

“This will be a powerful improvement in the open enrollment program for students with disabilities,” says Paula Buege, a parent from Middleton. “But it’s also critical to support our neighborhood schools where our students have special education rights and the doors are open to all, unlike private voucher schools. The proposed funding increases will be a big step forward.”

“We’ve argued all along that fixing open enrollment is the way to go, rather than draining our public schools through special needs voucher schemes,” said Pam DeLap, a parent from Oshkosh. “Families statewide have been speaking out time and again about how risky the vouchers would be for our students. It’s time to give up on the failed special needs voucher proposals, once and for all, and put our effort toward strengthening public education for all our children.”

For more information on Stop Special Needs Vouchers, a parent-led statewide grassroots group:
Facebook page — https://www.facebook.com/StopSpecialNeedsVouchers
Website — http://www.stopspecialneedsvouchers.org/


Parent Quotes

“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.” — Karl from Madison, father to Emma

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