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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

 8:29 PM 

Assembly passes special needs voucher bill

The Assembly has passed AB 110, a bill that makes school choice vouchers available for special needs students on a 55-39 vote. There were two sets of paired votes.

The bill would make a $13,500 voucher available for special education students to attend private schools of their choice. The bill was amended last week on the floor, but was blocked by Democrats.

Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, D-Madison, decried the bill as lacking proper safeguards to ensure parents have enough information on the school's academic performance when looking at private schools under the voucher program.

"By creating this scholarship program to allow special ed students vouchers to attend any school, private school, they want to, we're creating a situation where we have zero control over those children," Pope-Roberts said.

Democrats said the program would not allow conflict resolution and would force the state to bus private school students without a limit on how far they could be bused.

After the four hour caucus, the bill's author, Rep. Michelle Litjens, R-Oshkosh, asked to move the bill back to the amendment stage. That motion was shot down with an objection. She then moved to suspend the rules to move the bill back to amendable stage, but that motion failed to achieve the 2/3 needed for an amendment.

Republicans argued that Democrats were using "overblown rhetoric" to attack something that gives parents the opportunity to find a better school for their child. They also argued that there are provisions in the bill that limit the program, including a provision in the substitute amendment that limits the number of scholarships to 5 percent of the number of total special needs students in the state.

They also said that parents have their student's best interests and mind and should be allowed to make that educational choice for their children.

"The parents who have nothing but care and concern for their child, they're not going to just into this decision lightly, I can tell you that," Rep. Dean Knudson said.


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