NEENAH - A piece of Governor Walker's budget proposal has a lot of people talking. The governor wants to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to allow special needs students to attend private school, or a different public school.
Stop Special Needs Vouchers is a group of Wisconsin parents lobbying against Governor Walker's idea of putting $21 million into special needs school vouchers.
Mary Swifka has a son with special needs. Swifka says he is doing very well at his public school. She's against vouchers, because she says unlike public schools, private schools do not need to adhere to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
"The right to special education teachers and specialists, which private schools are not required to have on staff," said Swifka.
Other parents disagree, saying most private schools are held to similar standards.
"I'm very much in support of this, because it puts the parent back in charge, we know our children best," said Erin Beres.
Beres has a son with autism. She says he is not getting the education he needs at his current school, but she can't afford to put him in private school and says he would likely be rejected from open enrollment.
"So we're left with, 'what do you do?' As parents, basically, they don't have any options, we've run out. I mean, the only thing I'm been told to do next is, 'well, you have to move,'" said Beres.
Democratic State Representative Penny Bernard Schaber is campaigning against the special needs vouchers. As is Republican State Senator Mike Ellis. The lawmakers say the vouchers would take money out of public education and actually hurt the special needs programs at those schools.
"When you take kids out of the school, you still have to spend the same amount of money, even though that child is not longer there," explained Bernard Schaber.
But Terry Brown with Wisconsin School Choice says the Governor's Budget only allows for 5% of special needs students in the state to get vouchers.
"The limit that's on the program is unlikely to drastically affect any district and in the end this isn't really about districts, this is about parents and their children," said Brown.
Swifka says regardless, the vouchers are not the answer.
"Currently special education funding is woefully under-funded. So we need the state to step up and we need the feds to step up too," said Swifka.
Governor Walker's office released this statement in response to the issue: "These scholarships will give families the freedom to choose alternative options for their children with special needs because every child in Wisconsin deserves access to a great education."
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