When Miriam Oakleaf was 10 months old, her parents noticed something was wrong.
By 2 1/2 she had been formally diagnosed with autism, epilepsy and a rare skin and central nervous system condition called linear nevus sebaceous syndrome.
Now 8 and in second grade at Crestwood Elementary School in Madison, Miriam’s schooling requires extensive support and planning from a variety of education professionals – administrators, therapists, teachers and aides – in addition to her parents.
The story of Miriam and children like her is at the heart of a $21 million proposal in Gov. Scott Walker’s state budget that would allow 5% of kids with disabilities in Wisconsin to attend private or public schools outside their home districts on a taxpayer-funded voucher.
The proposal has driven a wedge through the state’s network of special-needs parents. Some believe it would open up more schooling options for their children while others contend it will drain more resources from their local public schools.