Voucher proponents sometimes argue that voucher schools do not provide special education services because they do not get money to do so. But Endress of Wisconsin FACETS doesn't buy the money argument, whether it comes from public schools, charter schools, or voucher schools.
She understands why all schools may not be equipped to deal with students needing a full-time aide, such as medically fragile students or those with multiple physical, emotional, and medical needs. But such students are the exception, she says. Most special education students can be served without extraordinary accommodations.
"The main thing they have to do is have a teacher on staff that is licensed in special education that is cross categorical," she says. "There is no reason why these voucher schools can't have just one teacher. Think of all the support they could provide not just the students but also other teachers. To me, it just makes good educational sense."
The money argument assumes that public schools receive adequate funding for special education. But they don't. In MPS, for example, special ed spending is about $164 million this year, according to Michelle Nate, director of finance. Since the state and federal governments reimburse only 66 percent of that money, MPS must take $55 million from its overall budget to fund special education.
The Milwaukee Archdiocese, which oversees the largest bloc of voucher schools, does not have figures on special education. Nor does the Archdiocese provide special education teachers for its schools. Dave Prothero, superintendent for the Milwaukee Archdiocesan schools, says special education issues are dealt with at the school level. "Any parent that calls and says that their child has special needs, the response will be, 'Please come in to the school and talk about the specific needs of your child to see if we can meet those needs.'"