Lawmaker Promises to Pass Special Needs Vouchers

By John Forester | November 21, 2014

A Republican lawmaker whose daughter has Down syndrome promised Thursday that a divisive proposal to create a voucher to help students with disabilities attend private school in Wisconsin will pass “one way or another.”

See the article by Scott Bauer of the Associated Press here.

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MacIver Institute Suggests Changes to Public Retirees’ Health Care Benefits

By John Forester | November 20, 2014

​A report published by a Dallas-based libertarian think tank and Wisconsin’s conservative MacIver Institute calls for changes to the state’s health care benefit program for public retirees.

Read more here.

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A Beginning: Public Release of SAA’s WI’s PK-12 Pathway to World-Class Student Success

By John Forester | November 20, 2014

Yesterday, the SAA publicly released its evidence-based policy agenda.  Please click here for photos, video and news coverage of the event.

The public release marked the beginning of our efforts to build support for evidence-based state educational policies.  And, we know that the most important conversations, moving forward, will not be held in Madison but rather in every school district throughout the state.  When educators sit down with student leaders, parents, and community and business leaders to share the impact of state policy on educational opportunities we know that these stakeholders, over time, will become advocates for evidence-based state educational policy.

In the coming weeks we hope that every administrative team begins to plan how to engage their stakeholders in this conversation.   Please click here for materials to help you get started.

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Lawsuit Announced Over Special Needs Open Enrollment; Links to Special Needs Vouchers

By John Forester | November 20, 2014

From WisPolitics:

A conservative legal group yesterday announced a lawsuit over the state’s open enrollment program, which it says discriminates against children with disabilities.

The complaint — filed Tuesday in the western Wisconsin federal district court by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty — argues more than 1,000 disabled children applying for open enrollment were denied in the 2013-2014 academic year “solely on the basis of their disability.” The group alleges current state law violates federal disability law and is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

“Wisconsin’s open enrollment program gives parents the freedom to find a public school that best meets their child’s individualized needs,” said WILL Education Policy Director CJ Szafir. “All children, regardless of whether they have a disability, deserve equal access to this program.”

WILL says it represents four children with disabilities who were denied open enrollment; three of the districts to deny those applications — Elkhorn, Greendale and Muskego-Norway — are named in the lawsuit, along with state Superintendent Tony Evers and the Department of Public Instruction.

Backers of legislation to create a scholarship for special needs students to attend private school, a charter or a school outside the districts they live in say they plan to bring the bill back again next session.

Legislation to create such a scholarship of $13,500 passed the Assembly in 2012, but failed to make it through the Assembly. Gov. Scott Walker then included a version in the 2013-15 budget he proposed that would allow up to 5 percent of the state’s special education students enroll in a private, charter or public school at no cost, but it was pulled by opponents.

A separate bill sponsored by Rep. John Jagler, R-Watertown, and Sen. Leah Vukmir, received hearings in both houses last session, but did not receive a vote. It would allow students to qualify for the scholarships if they meet certain criteria, including applying to attend another public school through open enrollment, but being denied.

“I’m confident with the changing landscape in both houses that we’ll be able to get it done this time,” Jagler said. “Unfortunately, the families that are affected by this have had to wait another year.”

Teachers unions have general opposed the bill, as have some disability rights advocates who fear special needs students who used the scholarships to attend private schools would not receive services that public schools have to provide under federal law.

 

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SAA Releases Evidence-Based Policy Agenda

By John Forester | November 19, 2014

At a news conference this morning, at the Institutes for Discovery on the UW Madison campus, the SAA publicly released it’s evidence-based policy agenda.  Please find the links below to the SAA’s press release and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel news coverage.

Press Release

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article

The SAA’s supporting documents can be found here or on our website on the right side under Advocacy Documents.

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Schools’ Broadband Costs Often High for Slow Service

By John Forester | November 12, 2014

​Interesting article by Rick Barrett and Erin Richards of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the state of school broadband services in Wisconsin.

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Evers Introduces 2015-17 State Education Budget Request

By John Forester | November 10, 2014

“Across the state in school districts large and small, urban and rural, we’ve heard that Wisconsin’s school funding system is broken. It’s not serving our state well,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers as he introduced his 2015‑17 state education budget.​

See DPI News Release here.

See DPI Budget Request here.

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Legislature’s Agenda Grows More Conservative

By John Forester | November 10, 2014

Here is another article focusing on the tilt to the right in the Legislature and what that means for the agenda in the Capitol.  Please note the section on education issues.

 

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Preliminary School Referenda Results

By John Forester | November 6, 2014

The SAA has received preliminary school referenda results from the DPI.  There was a total of 53 referendum questions on the ballot in 38 school districts.

Twenty-four of those questions were for debt issuance with 15 passing and 9 failing.  Twenty questions were for exceeding the revenue limit (non-recurring) with 16 passing and 4 failing.  Finally, 9 questions were for exceeding the revenue cap (recurring) with 4 passing and 5 failing.

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MJS Editorial on Walker’s Ambitions

By John Forester | November 5, 2014

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel posted an interesting editorial this afternoon on Walker’s ambitions for higher office and what that means for all of us.  The editorial essentially said that a governor at the pinnacle of his power like Walker is should use that power to forge consensus and tackle some very important issues for the state of Wisconsin.  One of those issues of course is to ensure adequate funding for K-12 education.  Here is what the Journal-Sentinel had to say about the school funding issue:

“Ensure adequate funding for K-12 education. Walker and the GOP-dominated Legislature cut state aid to schools by nearly $800 million in the 2011-’13 budget — the largest cuts in the nation that year. Walker claimed that Act 10′s “tools” (the law that gutted collective bargaining for most public workers) helped schools make up the difference. That’s debatable. What is less debatable is his insistence on establishing a second shadow public education system by lifting the 1,000-student cap on the statewide school voucher program. It would be costly and ensure that Wisconsin has not one but two underfunded public school systems. A fiscal conservative such as Walker should know better”.

Amen.

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