I am a husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend. I believe in sharing my talents and experiences by giving back to the community by giving my time to coaching, church and especially to the disability community. I truly believe that all men and women are created equally.
Let me start with full disclosure. I am working with Joanne Junke and Stop Special Needs Vouchers. I have blogged on the subject a number of times.
I want to address some of the questions that came up in the recent news story in the paper.
The money does not follow the child
Wisconsin does not put a dollar amount per student when it comes to special education. The number chosen may or may not be enough to cover the tuition at the voucher school. The amount may or may not cover specific special education costs such as speech, occupational or physical therapy. I can’t imagine a voucher school just providing these essential therapies at no additional cost. I can’t imagine families not wanting these services for their child. I have seen instances where the child returns to the public school for these therapies and it is the family’s responsibility to arrange the transportation. If the voucher dollars do not cover the entire amount, then the family must pay the difference.
If the voucher school fails the child, there is NO mechanism to return the money to the public school if the child returns to the public school. So now, a student returns to the public school, where does the money come from to educate this child?
Open Enrollment and Voucher Schools do not have to accept the child
I have experienced this early on in my child’s education. The school was happy to accept the sibling, but they did not want to accept my son with a developmental disability. We are very happy that we have remained in the Cudahy School District. A voucher school also has the option of not accepting a student with special needs. So there is no difference here. Also, the voucher would only cover 5% of all of the students receiving special education services. This does not sound like a fair number to me.
Public Schools not following Individualized Education Program (IEP), Voucher Schools do not have them
Voucher schools do not have an IEP Process. In some cases, the IEP is created at the child’s home school, but the voucher school is not required to follow it. There are no guarantees or protections for the student in the event the voucher school does not follow through on whatever agreement has been made between the school and the family. If a child has achieved their goals and the IEP needs to be updated, who is going to create the update? I have seen the IEP process work. I have seen where schools have had to make accommodations to meet the needs of the students. I have talked to families where the child is in the 5th grade but is reading at a 1st grade level. A voucher school has had that child sit with the 1st graders during reading, not with their peers. The family complained to the school, but the school said that this is how it was going to be, there was no protection against the school from doing this.
As I said in a previous blog, it is not a choice if you are forced to give up your rights