DPI Has Voucher Supporters All A Roil

At the behest of the federal Department of Justice who are investigating possible discrimination against students with disabilities, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction requested voluntary information from Wisconsin’s voucher schools. This has voucher proponents and GOP legislators…well…seeing red!

…the DPI’s request that was sent to schools last week — prompted by complaints submitted to the DOJ in 2011 that taxpayer-financed voucher schools were turning away students with special needs — has already met with harsh criticism by advocates for the voucher program.

Rick Esenberg, president of the conservative nonprofit law firm, Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, blasted the DPI in a news release, saying the department was being “commandeered” by the Justice Department.

Republican state senators in Madison also expressed their frustration. Sen. Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee) sent a letter Monday to DPI Superintendent Tony Evers reprimanding him for the request.

“I am disappointed in your mismanagement, deceit, and undermining of not only the parental school choice programs, but of the authority of the Legislature as well,” Farrow wrote in the letter.

Well it seems that the bills that the legislature passed as part and parcel of the bills that authorized vouchers included wording that prevents voucher schools from being compelled to provide the information:

Private schools in the voucher program can’t be required under current state law to make available information about students with disabilities…. Rick Esenberg, an attorney and president of the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, said he thinks that even asking for the information to be turned over voluntarily could be a violation of the law.

But here is the kicker (emphasis mine):

Public schools must provide that data.

I really hope that students with special needs aren’t be discriminated against by schools using tax dollars. But we can’t know unless there is visibility into their enrollment practices. And they have every incentive not to enroll students with disabilities:

Students with disabilities are typically more expensive to educate, but voucher schools receive the same taxpayer subsidy for every student.

If a school is willing to accept tax dollars to educate children…they should be willing to provide the same reporting as public schools.

…said Monica Murphy, managing attorney at Disability Rights Wisconsin. “DPI can ask for whatever it wants. Why are (voucher advocates) afraid to provide the data?”


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2 thoughts on “DPI Has Voucher Supporters All A Roil

  1. From Stop Special Needs Vouchers Wisconsin:

    Taxpayers Deserve to See the Voucher School Data, Say Families of Students with Disabilities

    “The antagonism to disability data reporting takes on additional overtones in context of the so-called Creating Hope and Opportunity for Individuals and Communities through Education (CHOICE) Act, recently introduced at the federal level. In an astonishing disregard for the federal rights of students with disabilities, the CHOICE Act would amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to allow federal IDEA funds to flow into private voucher schools, while explicitly exempting those schools from abiding by the IDEA itself. The CHOICE Act also includes a truncated “non-discrimination” statement that would leave the door wide open for private voucher schools to openly discriminate on the basis of disability, actually codifying such discrimination-permission into the IDEA itself.

    Wisconsin must ensure that our students with disabilities are not cheated of their civil rights when educated in private voucher schools. Proposed voucher expansion, including special needs vouchers, is more problematic than ever in the presence of such resistance to accountability as is currently being demonstrated.”

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