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Silver Pen letter: Special needs vouchers hurt schools

8:59 PM, Feb. 22, 2013  |  Comments
Education
Education

Part of Gov. Scott Walker's budget includes a plan to fund special needs vouchers. As a parent of a child with a developmental disability, I feel very strongly that these vouchers, which siphon tax dollars from public schools to be used in private schools, are a bad idea. I do not support them. In fact, not one statewide disability organization in Wisconsin supports special needs vouchers.

Parents fought long and hard for decades to ensure their children with developmental disabilities were given the right to attend a public school staffed by professional special education teachers. Along with those rights, federal and state laws were put in place to guarantee such things as students' access to nonsegregated classrooms, trained professionals, assistive technologies, safe learning environments and accountability from school staff.

Every one of those provisions may be lost as soon as a family accepts a voucher. If a parent accepts a voucher to enroll their child in a private school, that school can refuse admission, or worse, accept a child. only to turn her back to her home school, keeping the voucher money, of course, and leaving the parents with no right to appeal.

National organizations are pouring a lot of money into Wisconsin to push the adoption of special needs vouchers. The reality is that many of these groups support school privatization; they want to make a profit off vulnerable children and use our tax dollars to do it.

Wisconsin public schools are struggling to recover from the drastic cuts to their budgets in the last two years. Voucher proposals do nothing but take money away from already cash-strapped schools. Small rural districts would be hit especially hard.

Special needs vouchers are a bad choice for Wisconsin and for our children.

Mary Swifka,

New London

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