• By Meghan Chua Daily Cardinal 2/18/13
A provision of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget that would create a voucher-like program for special needs students drew concern from activists across the state Monday.
Walker announced Monday the budget would create a Special Needs Scholarship Program that would provide state-funded scholarships for children with special needs to attend a school of their choice, which could be private or public.
Beth Swedeen, Executive Director for the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, likened the Special Needs Scholarship Program to a voucher program.
Swedeen said she is concerned about the lack of accountability for private schools to serve a disabled student specialization to his or her needs.
The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires institutions that accept federal funding to provide a certain standard of services, including special education, to students with disabilities.
“[The program] drains resources out of the public system, which is accountable for student outcomes, into a private system where there is no accountability,” Swedeen said.
Parents and their students, many with disabilities, from across the state gathered in the Capitol Monday for a news conference sponsored by Stop Special Needs Vouchers, a statewide organization.
Tracy Hedman, who spoke at the conference, said she was concerned about vouchers’ effect on her son’s education.
She said her relationship with the school her son attends “would have been far different if [he] was not protected under IDEA, and went to a school that wasn’t obligated to follow the law.”
School Choice Wisconsin President Jim Bender said the school choice expansion, including the Special Needs Scholarship Program, is “great news for parents.”
“Parents…have been empowered to have an active role in matching the uniqueness of their children with a school that best suit their needs,” Bender said in a release Monday.