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School vouchers proposal drawing more criticism

By Lou Hillman, lhillman@wkbt.com
Published On: Feb 25 2013 08:11:30 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 25 2013 11:12:57 PM CST
ONALASKA, Wis. -

There continue to be concerns about Governor Scott Walker's (R-Wisconsin) proposal to expand school vouchers in the state.

Families with students with special needs say this proposal will put them at a disadvantage for several reasons.

"If you're going to open up school vouchers with students with special needs, you need to be able to accomodate those needs," said Meme Mihalovic, an advocate who’s son has autism.

“All students, no matter who they are, need to have a voice," she added.

Mihalovic is concerned about plans to expand school vouchers in Wisconsin because of the impact it would have on special needs students.

First of all, private schools are not required to provide special education classes or have certified special education teachers. On top of that, private shools can turn down students at their own discretion.

“So your child with special needs is going to fall into the cracks basically," said Mihalovic.

Governor Scott Walker's office did not respond to News 8’s request for comment on this story. In his budget address last week, Walker aruged that his plan will help families with children in failing schools.

“While we work to improve underperforming schools, our children can't afford to wait. This is why we provide new choices for parents in areas where schools are failing to meet expectations,” he said.

“The vouchers are one thing. The additional money is another," said Onalaska Superintendent Fran Finco.

Finco says he still has lots of questions about the proposal. He worries the vouchers won't cover what it actually costs to educate a special needs student.

"I'm thinking there's more to this special ed voucher than what meets the eye," said Finco.

Expansion of school vouchers is not being proposed in all school districts. It would only be for districts with more than 4,000 students, two failing schools, and 20 or more studetns applying to be in the program.

To learn more about the proposal and the possible impact on special education, there will be a meeting on February 27 in La Crosse. It’s being held at Days Inn Hotel, 101 Sky Harbour Drive, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

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