ON-Lion Letter
"Wisconsin students with disabilities and unique needs are sometimes unable to secure what, in their parents' judgment, is an appropriate education at a public school.  The courts and legislators have recognized that federal funds must be available for educating such students in private schools instead," begins a February report from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI), How Wisconsin is Failing to Help Students with Disabilities, by its senior fellow Mike Nichols.

"There is, nevertheless, a large disparity between the formally reported percentage of children in Wisconsin public schools who have disabilities (approximately 14 percent) and the percentage of children in private schools who have disabilities (less than 2 percent)," according to Nichols.  "This has led some to contend that private schools are not receptive to children with special needs.

"A survey of private school administrators conducted by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute as part of the research for this paper dispels that myth," he continues.  "Private school administrators say both that they educate more children with disabilities (about 6 percent) than official Department of Public Instruction numbers reflect, and that would like to teach even more.

"There are myriad, inter-related reasons why they can't or don't," Nichols writes.  "A new process is needed -- one that recognizes each child's individuality and right to money and services, a system in essence wherein the money 'follows the child' in an amount sufficient to address his or her needs.  Concurrently, Wisconsin should consider the possibility of creating new local education agencies ... other than local public school districts to help process federal funds, including IDEA funds, for at least some children with disabilities in private schools."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports WPRI.
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