UPDATE: Republicans renew push for special needs vouchers - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Republicans renew push for special needs vouchers


MADISON (WKOW) -- Republican lawmakers are making another effort to allow special needs students to receive taxpayer funded vouchers to attend the schools of their choice.

But they say this time it would only apply to families who have exhausted all other options.

Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) pulled a previous version of the legislation out of the 2013-15 biennial budget, over concerns that it was too broad and would lead to too many students leaving the public school system.

As a result, special needs students remain the only group in Wisconsin public schools that are ineligible for vouchers.

Proponents of the revamped Special Needs Scholarship Bill say its different than past versions for a number of reasons.

"It is limited to students who have worked within the system and have been failed by that system," said Susan Giaimo of Milwaukee, a mother of a special needs child who appeared at a news conference with lawmakers at the Capitol Tuesday morning.

Under the bill, only special needs students who were denied the ability to transfer within their own public school district would be eligible for a voucher.

"It would allow kids who were denied open enrollment the option to go to a school, it would be a scholarship to go to a private school or another public school that wants to participate in the program," said Rep. John Jagler (R-Watertown), the lead author of the bill in the Assembly.

Rep. Jagler says 42 percent of special needs students are denied a transfer through open enrollment.

"And I simply cannot understand why anybody would stand in the way of my girls getting the education they deserve," said Dani Rossa, a Wauwatosa mother of two daughters with autism.

But people from the group Stop Special Needs Vouchers are trying to stand in the way.  They say the bill creates a situation where only the public schools would have to accept students with severe special needs.

"The private schools who would accept vouchers are not under that same obligation," said Joann Juhnke, spokesperson for Stop Special Needs Vouchers.  "So, the funding leaves the public schools together with students who are less affected by their disability and then the public schools are left with their obligation to educate our children with more serious disabilities as the money flows outward."

The bill's future is unknown, as most of the education stakeholders have stayed on the sidelines.

"Unfortunately though, the folks that we've reached out to that did not participate in this were the school boards and the administrators," said Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa), lead author in the Senate.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he would like to bring the bill to the floor by February, but admits he's not sure where his fellow Republicans stand on the bill.


MADISON (WKOW) -- Republicans are making another push at the Capitol to extend taxpayer subsidies to help special needs students attend private schools.

In Governor Scott Walker's budget last year, the idea was removed despite strong opposition from disability rights groups and others.  However, four Republican lawmakers scheduled a news conference Tuesday to release their latest proposal.

The statewide public school teachers union, Wisconsin Education Association Council, opposes the vouchers, saying lawmakers should invest in public education.

Families of those with special needs have spoken out saying private schools aren't accountable because they aren't required to provide the same services as public schools under federal law.

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