Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sometimes "Choice" is a Dangerous Chance to Take

This week is School Choice Week...
Sounds pretty, doesn't it?
For many people, school choice is a wonderful thing.  It's a good way to drive schools to be "better", to be more competitive, to reach for higher heights.  
But for this mommy of a daughter with special needs, and an Individual Education Plan (IEP); school choice sounds like a fancy way of saying, "We can take your kid, and the money that comes with her, but provide her with little that she actually needs."
In the state of Wisconsin, a battle has been going on FOR YEARS over the continued attempts to create a Special Needs Voucher bill (possibly with wording has changed and the "name" of it from time to time, but still contains many of the same ideas.)  I kid you not, this thing NEVER DIES...I've written letters to leaders, editorials in papers, and sat in on committee hearings...the bill will whither and fade away because of the persistence and passion of hundreds of parents and advocates, but it JUST.KEEPS.COMING.BACK...
 Can you say Freddie Krueger?
Don't believe me?  You can follow some of it's history at the official blog page for the grassroots group Stop Special Needs Voucher!  It's a great account of what's been going on over the past three years, at least. 

So, why, you may be asking, does this idea scare the living daylights out of me? (It has nothing to do with me imagining it as Freddie Krueger).  It frightens me because I know that the IEP we have for my daughter, the IEPs that many of my friends have for their kids, the IEPs that are protecting them, advocating for them, ensuring them the best education possible, are completely at risk once they leave the public schools.
Check out this informative site: Understanding Special Education
It says here that the district will still evaluate the child and make recommendations, but that doesn't mean the private school has to follow any of it. 
So, with a Special Needs Voucher; as they continue to propose here in Wisconsin, the money for a child with special needs would get sucked out of the public school and given to the private school, but that private school wouldn't even have to get the student the therapies or accommodations she or he needs.  
Do you know what that would look like in OUR life?  My daughter receives vision services, orientation and mobility services, additional help for math, reading, music, science, social studies...she has a speech therapist, and an occupational therapist on consult...are you going to tell me that a private school is going to hire all of those people for little old her if they aren't REQUIRED to?  

"Tammie, have a little faith..."
Oh, I have faith...don't worry, I have faith.  I also am realistic and wise enough to know how the world works, how our flesh works, how greed works, and how "a little shave here and a little shave there" becomes a whole shaved head eventually. 
"So, Tammie, no one says YOU have to enroll your daughter in a private school..."
No, you're right, I don't have to, and I don't want to. But I also know that there are a lot of parents out there who might not realize the full implications of what rights they would be abandoning at the door if their child with special needs got in on a Special Needs Voucher program to a private school.  
As I said, this sounds very attractive, but I believe it's a wolf in sheep's clothing. 
My daughter would be a cute bubbly nine year old with a white cane and a dollar sign on her head.  That "choice" sounds like a dangerous chance to take. 

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