Presented February 18, 2013, Stop Special Needs Vouchers press conference at the Capitol in Madison
Good afternoon. I’m Katie Schierl. My husband Dan and I have 4 children. Danny and Jim are 21-year-old twins, Christopher is 18 and Sarah is 16. We live in the Town of Clayton, part of the Neenah Joint School District.
I am here on behalf of my son Jim, a former student of special education. Jim has cerebral palsy, is cognitively delayed and has a visual impairment.
Jim completed his education last June after 18 years of special education services in the Neenah district. One of the services guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is transition planning, a process that helps students think about life after high school and design a plan to work toward their long range goals.
In Wisconsin public schools, transition planning must begin by age 14, and that was the case for Jim. We were talking about transition with Jim’s staff even as early as elementary school! By the time Jim reached the end of high school, we had been working with a high-powered transition team comprised of Jim, Dan and I, Jim’s special ed teacher, a representative from an adult day care facility, one of Jim’s job coaches and his physical therapist. He had a very smooth transition to his day program due to a great deal of collaboration between the many people in Jim’s public school life.
Special needs vouchers come with no transition guarantees. None at all.
I am here today to state Dan and I do not agree with vouchers for students with special needs. We do not believe that our tax money should be going to non-public schools that don’t have to follow IDEA, including the transition programs that were so vital for Jim.
We are certainly not opposed to private schools in general. We have firsthand private school experience too, as we sent 3 of our children to parochial school for several years before eventually transferring them all to public school. But Jim never did attend parochial school. Dan and I knew that the place for Jim was in the public school with a special education program, where his needs could be appropriately met.
Vouchers are no substitute for public schools and IDEA. We request that special needs vouchers be removed from the state budget entirely. Thank you.