Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Jim Powell
I knew I was a little "slow" ...this should have been posted here yesterday. This came from DRW (Disability Rights - Wisconsin) • Support AB 471 - Intellectual Disabilities
• Support AB 477 – Family Care Caps
• Support AB 455 – Restraint and Seclusion
• Oppose AB 110 – Special Needs Vouchers


Intellectual Disabilities Language Bill
AB 471 removes harmful language from our state laws – the words “mental retardation” – that have stigmatized people with disabilities for far too long. The removal of this term will not change funding, eligibility or supports for people with disabilities, but will make a big difference to many individuals and will bring our state in line with the thinking of other major medical organizations and health agencies. This bill passed the Senate by unanimous voice vote and we look forward to a day soon when the Governor will sign it into law.
Our Recommendation: Support

Family Care Caps Bill
AB 477 lifts the caps on Wisconsin’s long-term care programs – including Family Care, IRIS, PACE and Family Care Partnership – that were placed in the state budget. The Department of Health Services has presented solid information demonstrating that our long-term care system is sustainable and cost-effective, in addition to being extremely vital to the lives of tens of thousands of people with disabilities and seniors. We hope the Assembly will have a strong show of bi-partisanship to pass this bill just like the Senate who passed it unanimously. Swift passage of this legislation is important to not only the more than 8,000 eligible individuals on the state’s waiting list, but for the maintenance of $1.7 billion in federal funds.
Our Recommendation: Support

Seclusion and Restraint Bill
AB 455/SB 353 restricts the use of seclusion and restraint in schools to situations when the student’s or other individuals’ safety is at risk and it is the least restrictive intervention. Harmful practices are not allowed and parents must be notified. This is a huge step forward in Wisconsin. In the past, students have been harmed and teachers have been ill-prepared to deal with serious situations. In addition, this bill has the extraordinary and diverse support of DPI and various education stakeholders, including school boards and school administrators, and is also supported by all major disability and children’s advocacy groups. The Senate bill passed that chamber by unanimous voice vote. The success of this legislation is a credit to the education committee membership in both chambers, including Assembly Education Committee Chair Kestell. We look forward to a day soon when the Governor will sign this bill into law.
Our Recommendation: Support

Special Needs Voucher Bill
AB 110 is intended to allow parents of students with disabilities to use a voucher to attend a private school. However it will create new, though perhaps unintended problems, which can be harmful to parents and students. Although this bill was improved since its original version, the calculation for funding of these vouchers remains a significant concern and is not a responsible use of taxpayer dollars. Since there are no income or tuition caps in this bill, it will likely lock out lower income families or families with children with complex disabilities, and in fact will use public dollars to subsidize private education for families with very high incomes. No statewide disability or special education-focused organization supports this bill. In addition, as we have seen in other states, particularly Florida where the idea for Wisconsin’s voucher program was sparked, a program of this type creates significant loopholes for fraud and family deception. Families may not realize they give up their rights to a Free and Appropriate Public Education. The bill does not even require voucher schools to have trained or certified special education teachers, or an approved curriculum. Perhaps most concerning is the fact that each voucher takes critical funding away from the majority of students with disabilities who remain in that area public school. Although we do believe a small percentage of families could benefit from such a voucher, this bill does not serve the best interests of the 95%+ students with disabilities who will choose to remain in our public schools. In fact, they may be harmed if this bill becomes law. Such a bill should not be passed in haste.
Our Recommendation: Oppose


Bills we also like - The Assembly will also vote Tuesday on these bills which we like or helped to improve:

AB 447 – Vocational Diploma Bill: authorizes a school board to issue a Vocational Diploma – for a student with a disability, the discussion about a vocational diploma will happen within the IEP process. Disability advocates got this improvement!

AB 558 Read to Lead Bill: This bill creates universal screening for kindergartners and a new reading licensure exam for teachers. Disability Advocates successfully amended the bill to get a representative for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities added to the new Read to Lead Development Council and made a link to the Child Find process so eligible children are referred to special education.

SB 421 Physicians Assistants: This bill authorizes new duties for physicians assistants. Disability Advocates were able to make a change so that now P.A.s and nurse practitioners can write medical excuses for students with special health care needs so they are not marked truant from school.