"special needs students are a burden on our schools"

Where are the investigative reporters?!

The quote that is the heading for this post is from Representative Dan LaMahieu.
Voucher Dan
Below is a response from Pulaski Schools Administrator Mel Lightner and father of a special needs student, correcting Mr. LaMahieu’s assertion from the perspective of one who has worked with schools for over 20 years.

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LaMahieu went on to say “I feel comfortable that the parents being involved will be seeking what is best for that student.” The Eastern Wisconsin Republican added that he does think it’s “a problem” that proposed funding increases for the voucher program far exceed that of public schools.”

A conference in Madison offered a glimpse of what could be contentious public hearings on the state budget proposal. A panel of three lawmakers from the Joint Finance Committee talked about their educational priorities during the Wisconsin Association of School Boards lobby day Wednesday.Wisconsin Radio Network

And where is the Wisconsin investigative media? What happened to investigative reporting as legislators stand in their official and powerful capacity and are allowed to make such sweeping and ill informed statements like the one that is the title of this post? It isn’t like this push for privatized education is new or unique to Wisconsin. Yet, the press is too often satisfied to quote the GOP tribunal of sound bite treachery and leave it at that.

Wisconsin Public Television and radio, and major news sources have done far too little to tap into the wealth of studies, real cost analysis, or case history of the reality of charter school performance.

Charter Schools seem like a reasonable idea…until you look below the surface.

This is just a little blog with one editor who is spending a Saturday digging up a few stories and links from the wealth of information that is out there for the taking. Where are the investigative journalists?

The proposal for increased funding of charter schools has been tested in other states with studies that show the wisdom of the idea – at first glance.

The proponents of dismantling public education would like to place emphasis on the word “choice” when selling charter school funding.

One of the saddest consequences of the merger of education with partisan politics is that we now no longer can trust pronouncements from many of our state and local departments of education. Instead of accurate data, we are apt to get spin, hype, distortion, and outright lies, all in the service of someone’s political agenda.

“The average charter school is doing about the same as the non-charter school when no adjustments are made for poverty and minority statuses. When the adjusted scores are considered, the average charter school performs significantly worse than the average non-charter school.”Diane Ravitch’s Blog

Dr. Stanley Smith, a professor at the University of Central Florida’s business school, analyzed school grades of Florida elementary schools last summer, examining the effect of poverty and minority status on those grades. These results call into question the emphasis by state education leaders — particularly Republicans — on charter schools, Smith said.

“Although charter schools may be cheaper for the state to fund, the adjusted scores suggest that Florida is also getting a lower return on these schools,” Smith said. “Is the lower average return on these schools worth the lower cost?” Florida Putting Education Reform To The Test

What is really descending on Wisconsin is another push of the conservative right, that has lost direction on the national scene, to push down on state houses to orchestrate an agenda of privatization that has been rejected as revealed in national polling.

Mr. Lightner sums it up with a snap in his statement before the Join Finance Committee:

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In the clip Superintendent Lightner refers to the great ray of light on the committee as “Jennifer”. This would be the only democrat on the panel Senator Jennifer Shilling. When she first ran in the recall election to unseat Dan Kapanke, I recorded the speech she delivered at the Democratic Headquarters in Viroqua. It seems very fitting for the subject at hand.


9 thoughts on “"special needs students are a burden on our schools"

  1. The language of “burden” relating to disability has a long and shameful history. Consider this quote from Samuel G. Howe in 1848, speaking to the legislature of Massachusetts about people with cognitive disabilities: “This class of person is always a burden upon the public. Persons of this class are idle and often mischievous, and are dead weights upon the material prosperity of the state. They are even worse than useless.”

    That’s my daughter that Howe and Rep. LeMahieu are talking about! These are our children, these are our students, loving and beloved, members of society with their own unique gifts and contributions to make, fully worthy of our public investment and the opportunity to achieve their utmost potential. We’ve come a long way from those dark days of the 1800s, yet there are some whose language and perspectives have a long way to go to catch up with that progress.

    Thank goodness that Wisconsin public schools have such champions and leaders as Dr. Lightner, whose remarks included this ringing statement: “Actually it’s an obligation, a responsibility, and it’s an HONOR to educate children with exceptional educational needs or special needs.”

    Please consider joining the efforts of Stop Special Needs Vouchers at https://www.facebook.com/StopSpecialNeedsVouchers, a parent-led statewide grassroots group leading the charge against the harmful special needs vouchers legislation. Special needs vouchers must be removed from the state budget, and then defeated separately in the legislature on the proposal’s stunning lack of merit.


  2. We stand with our friends at Stop Special Needs Vouchers and are inspired everyday by the work they are doing to inform the public of harmful legislation. There is much to be concerned about in the current state budget proposal. The proposed voucher expansion is wrong for Wisconsin, and the proposal to create a Statewide Charter School Oversight Board (CSOB) is disingenuous at best. Proponents of the CSOB are now doing a public relations campaign throughout the state to convince the public that charter schools are good- hoping, no doubt, that the public will not see the distinction between public charter schools overseen by local school boards and accountable to local taxpayers, and private charter schools which siphon funds away from every public school district in the state and are not accountable to the public.
    Public schools have been struggling for two decades with a broken funding formula and lately have been the victims of unprecedented funding cuts. And now we have a proposed budget that restores not one penny to our children’s classrooms and offers a variety of ways for private interests to further erode funding for our schools.
    I am part of an organization that has been actively developing a network with other like-minded organizations in Wisconsin who believe that our public schools are not broken and should not be replaced by unaccountable, unacceptable alternatives. We believe that Wisconsin needs to reform its funding formula and provide more equitable and adequate public school funding that will better serve our children, schools, and communities. You can learn more about our efforts at http://www.reformwi.org.


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  4. Re : Charter Schools…
    Please be sure to differentiate between Charter Schools that operate as part of the public schools (such as Montessori), and Independent Charters and Voucher Schools. Their levels of accountability are different, and therefore these are important distinctions to make. Thank you


  5. This so called Person who thinks that special needs children ar a burden really does not have a stinking clue!!!!!!! My grand daughter has Downs and is the most lovable child any one could ask for. He really needs to get a grip on reality. She does things in her time and does learn things just as any child. Does all the children deserve an education?????? I thought so. I think he needs to go into a school where there are special needs children and spend a month with them. He really owes EVERYONE an apology at the very least. I am refraining from asking him a question because I do not want to stoop to his level!!!!!. Anyone with special needs children needs to call his office and demand something be done. I WILL find out his number and will be calling him and I hope everyone else will also.


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