Special Needs Vouchers and Undermined Teacher Licensure: A Toxic Combination
For Immediate Release
18 June 2015
Madison, WI – “How can this be happening to students with disabilities in Wisconsin?” That’s the question on the minds of parents of students with disabilities all over the state, as the implications of the Joint Finance Committee’s special education bombshells become ever clearer. Two particularly damaging proposals were introduced without warning or public discussion on May 19 and voted into the budget after midnight: special needs vouchers and a massive dilution of teacher licensure standards. Taken in combination, these two proposals are even more damaging for students with special education needs in our state.
The families of Stop Special Needs Vouchers have strongly objected to harmful special needs voucher proposals that have repeatedly been introduced and defeated in Wisconsin. Families are deeply concerned about the lack of rights and protections for students with disabilities in private voucher schools, and the increasing drain on funding for the public schools that must accept and educate students of all abilities.
Meanwhile, the proposal to credential grade 6-12 teachers in non-core subjects without even a bachelor’s degree, solely upon administrator request in public, charter, or private voucher schools, brings an additional hidden threat to the education of students with disabilities. Though special education is a specialized and demanding profession, it falls into the category of “any subject area excluding English, social studies, mathematics or science” as outlined in the motion. The prospect of credentialing untrained, non-degreed “special educators” to teach in any type of publicly-funded school in Wisconsin has left parents of students with disabilities with their jaws on the floor.
“These proposals are downright disrespectful to children and families, not to mention the professional special educators in our public schools across the state,” says Tracy Hedman, whose 11-year-old son Cyril has an IEP in the Glendale – River Hills school district. “What are we saying about how we value students with disabilities and those who teach them, when we say that just-about-anyone can get credentialed as special educators, and that voucher schools aren’t even required to address their educational needs?”
Kelli Simpkins, whose 13-year-old son Mickey has an IEP in the Madison school district, sees a bone-chilling prospect ahead as the two proposals interact. “Can you imagine what a shady voucher-school operator could do with this?” she asks. “They could hire anyone with a high-school diploma and declare that person to be a qualified special educator, no proof required. Then they could market their newly
DPI-credentialed ‘special educators’ in combination with the special needs vouchers to unsuspecting parents, who will have no way to tell the difference. Why in the world are we making this possible?”
Neither the special needs vouchers nor the teacher licensure debasement proposal belong in Wisconsin’s budget. The parents of Stop Special Needs Vouchers call upon the legislature to remove this toxic combination altogether, before it’s too late.
Also online at The Wheeler Report, 18 June 2015