Special needs vouchers are an empty promise

Gary E. Myrah, Janis Serak and Lisa Pugh:

As a new legislative session gets underway, a statewide group concerned about the education of students with disabilities is waving a yellow caution flag.
Parents often say what is most important to them about their children’s education is that they receive quality instruction, they are safe and feel like they belong. Parents of children with disabilities are no different.
There is statewide disagreement about what ingredients go into creating a successful education for students with disabilities, but there is now a threat to students with disabilities that has the potential to harm not just them but all public school districts in Wisconsin.
Key legislative leaders have indicated that a proposal to expand school choice through “special needs scholarships,” commonly known as vouchers, is in the works. We, Wisconsin proponents for quality education for students with disabilities, believe this is a shallow solution that funnels public funding to private schools without accountability.
Children with disabilities have a right to an Individualized Education Program, or IEP, where educators and parents collaborate to design a successful educational program. This includes expectations and accountability for what children learn, how they will learn it and the supports required. These rights are the result of decades of parent struggle and advocacy to move children with disabilities out of church basements and kitchen classrooms to the neighborhood school, where they are included and educated alongside their siblings and neighbors.