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August 2017

URGENT Action Alert: Call/Email to Stop Special Needs Voucher Expansion in the 2017/19 State Budget!

Calls and emails needed: the Joint Finance Committee will be voting on a Special Needs Scholarship Program agenda item on TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 5.
(See the agenda here: http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/raw/cid/1399365)

Just like when the Joint Finance Committee voted the special needs voucher program into the 2015/17 budget, over the objections of parents and disability organizations across the state, the motion won’t be made public until the actual committee meeting.

However, the voucher lobby put out a wish list today, in a brief from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty at http://www.will-law.org/special-needs-scholarship-reform/.
They want to expand special needs vouchers by:
1) eliminating the requirement that a child must apply for open enrollment
2) eliminating the requirement that a child attend a public school the year prior, and
3) increasing funding.

We need to let the Joint Finance Committee know THIS WEEK that any expansion of funding or enrollment criteria for the special needs voucher program is unacceptable.

Here’s what they need to hear:
– We need our Wisconsin tax dollars to fund public education, where students with disabilities have the full rights and protections of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  Categorical aid for special education in our public schools must be the first priority, and yet the committee has chosen to continue a full decade of flat-funding, even as costs continue to rise.  Public education MUST come first.
– Special needs vouchers are risky for students who take them and give up their IDEA rights, and harmful to students with disabilities in public schools, as increasingly more funding gets diverted into unaccountable private schools.
– Where is the evidence that special needs vouchers result in better outcomes for students with disabilities than special education in public schools? Why are we considering making investments in something unproven?
– Where is the opportunity for public testimony and deliberation on this significant policy change?
– Please vote AGAINST any expansion of special needs vouchers in the state budget.

CALLS:
Senator Darling (Co-Chair) – 608-266-5830
Representative Nygren (Co-Chair) – 608-266-2343
Senator Olsen (Vice-Chair) – 608-266-0751 
Representative Kooyenga (Vice-Chair) – 608-266-9180

Parent Quotes

“Public schools must abide by the Individuals and Disabilities Education Act, requiring specialized training for teachers and a standard of services to accommodate students with special needs. Private schools don’t have this obligation.” — Harriet, mother from Appleton

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