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Some parents skeptical of 'special needs' school vouchers

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School bus.
School bus.

MADISON (WRN)  The governor’s proposal to create a school choice voucher program for special needs students doesn’t sit well with everyone.

Under Governor Scott Walker’s education plan, more money would be invested in private school vouchers for special needs students, but not for public schools. Parents of kids with special needs gathered at the Capitol Monday with the group Stop Special Needs Vouchers to urge Governor Walker to reconsider.

Kimberly Nerone of Wauwatosa knows first hand how, together with the protections of IDEA and IEP, children with special needs can find success in their public schools. “In Wisconsin we need to be improving our already strong public schools for students who have disabilities, and not chip away at them with these special needs vouchers. Please, remove the special needs voucher program from the state budget.”

Melissa Stoltz of Beloit says while public schools are required to accept all students, regardless of severity of any disability, voucher schools would have no obligation to accept any given student. “Special needs vouchers would go to students with milder disabilities that are more easily accommodated, leaving students with more moderate and severe disabilities and neighborhood schools drained of funding for shared resources such as therapists and special education teachers.”

Melissa says families who use special needs vouchers forfeit their parent and student rights and protections guaranteed in public schools by the individuals with disabilities education act. She says, “Such a wide-reaching policy change affecting some of our most vulnerable students deserves a statewide public debate in a full public hearing in a standing education committee.”

The governor will unveil his budget on Wednesday.

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