Special Needs Education At Risk!


SPECIAL NEEDS VOUCHERS BILLS ARE BEING FAST-TRACKED NOW IN MADISON… DISABILITY GROUPS CONTINUE TO OPPOSE MODIFIED BILLS ­— CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS NOW! The new bill removes funding for special-education services and educators from public schools, allows voucher schools to hire non-certified special-education teachers and services, and does not provide enough per-child funding to address the needs of moderately to severely disabled students. Skip to the bottom of this message for a call to action, or keep reading for more details on this fast-tracked legislation affecting the quality of special education for students in public and voucher schools.

Background: This past fall, AB110 was introduced in the Wisconsin Assembly. During the public hearing, all disability groups in Wisconsin opposed the bill. Legislators from both sides of the aisle recognized that this bill would not pass.

Current status: Rep. Litjens, the sponsor of AB 110, submitted a rewritten version. Disability groups in Wisconsin continue to oppose it for the reasons described below. The biggest problem: the bill does not require private schools to have any special educators or related services expertise (e.g.,therapists) on staff. Sen. Vukmir has introduced the same bill in the Senate as SB 486.

Hearing schedule:

Assembly: AB 110 will be voted on by the Assembly Education committee on Feb. 22 @ 10 AM. No testimony is taken during this hearing.

Senate: Although no official announcement has been made, it looks like SB 486 will have a hearing during the afternoon of Feb. 28th.

Concerns with these bills:

The funding mechanism is highly problematic for the following reasons:
Wisconsin does not fund special education students on a per pupil basis. AB110 does does, withdrawing per-pupil funding for collectively used services such as teachers, aides and therapists, from the public school, making it more likely that special-education students in public schools will no longer receive the services they need.

The bill does not provide a tuition cap:
students with moderate to severe needs will not receive a voucher which pays for the cost of their education.

This will have three negative effects:

  • These students will be unlikely to find voucher schools that will serve them for the amount of their voucher.

  • The voucher program will likely appeal to families whose children have less complex disabilities, leaving the public schools with students who have the most complex needs.

  • Low- and possibly moderate- income families who seek to attend a private school which has a tuition higher than the voucher amount will be unable to use the voucher, resulting in vouchers simply serving to subsidize families who can already afford to send their children to private school, rather than giving the monetary choice to families who cannot afford to do so.

While we appreciate the reference to implementing the child’s most recent IEP, that reference becomes less relevant the longer the child remains in the private school (which the bill gives them a right to do through graduation or age 21 whichever comes first). In addition, there are no legal rights that go with that obligation. In other words, what happens if the child’s IEP is not implemented? The bill provides no remedy for that. Finally, as pointed in in point 4, below, without special educators on staff, how can parents have any confidence that private schools can actually implement their children’s IEPs?

This new bill does not require private schools to use DPI certified special educators or service providers.

Take Action!

Please contact your member of the Assembly immediately to express your concerns about AB 110. If you do not know who your Assembly member is, you may call: 1–800–362–9472 or go to www.legis.state.wi.us Also contact every member of the Assembly Education Committee and tell them why this bill does not meet the diverse needs of public-education students in Wisconsin. You can find a full list of committee email addresses here: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/w3asp/commpages/IndividualCommittee.aspx?COMMITTEE=Education&HOUSE=Assembly

We will alert you about the Senate Education Committee hearing that is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 28th in the afternoon, when the official announcement comes out. Please attend and testify if you can. If you cannot attend, please submit any concerns you may have to the chair of the committee, Sen. Luther Olsen at: Sen.Olsen@legis.wisconsin.gov or if your Senator is on the committee, please contact your Senator. The other Senators on the committee are Senators: Vukmir, Grothman, Darling, Vinehout, Larson and Cullen.

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on February 21, 2012

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