October 25, 2014

Feds order more oversight of voucher schools

The US Department of Justice is ordering state education officials to make sure disabled students in the Milwaukee school choice program are not being discriminated against.

Officials with the DOJ investigated claims that private schools in the Milwaukee voucher program were either rejecting or finding ways to expel disabled students. Lisa Pugh with Disability Rights Wisconsin, which worked with the American Civil Liberties Union to file the complaint, says a letter from the agency affirms what they’ve known all along; that “choice schools were not providing reasonable accommodations for a student’s disability.”

Federal officials are ordering the state Department of Public Instruction to provide better oversight of voucher schools and their practices for enrolling and serving disabled students. The DOJ is also calling on the state to establish a system for collecting complaints on disability issues in voucher schools and data on how they are complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

AUDIO: Lisa Pugh (:13)

A spokesman with DPI says the agency is reviewing the letter, although officials do question if they have the authority under current state law to fully address the issues it references. Pugh admits a broader approach may be needed to comply with the federal order, which she says could require the Legislature, governor, and other stakeholders getting involved.