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Disability Rights Wisconsin Applauds Renewed Investment in Students with Disabilities Budget Proposal Addresses Eroded Funding Concerns; Supports a Better Bottom Line

Disability Rights Wisconsin applauds the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s 2015-2017 biennial budget request released today that includes $108 million in investments for students with disabilities. Children with disabilities across Wisconsin should be able to get the quality education supports they need to achieve educational proficiency with their peers and gain the skills necessary to live independently and be employed – if the special education proposals in the Department of Public Instruction’s budget request move forward in the Wisconsin Legislature.

The budget DPI released today will reverse six years of flat lined funding for students with disabilities. Included among the requests are several jobs-focused proposals that direct and incentivize schools to focus on securing employment opportunities for young adults with disabilities prior to exiting school. These proposals align with Governor Walker’s Better Bottom Line initiative that have increased Wisconsin’s investments in employment of people with disabilities.

Specifically DPI is proposing a pay for performance Better Bottom Line Transitions initiative that would offer incentive payments to schools that show students are attending college, other schooling or have a competitive wage job in the community one year after high school. One million in funds would also be used to invest in a Better Bottom Line Job Development Support that directly connects schools and students with the business community while addressing local workforce needs.

“We are not seeing enough students with disabilities leaving our schools with the skills to be employed,” says Disability Rights Wisconsin Executive Director Daniel Idzikowski. According to 2012-13 DPI data, of the students with disabilities who left high school one year ago, 58% reported never attending any further education or training and 27% reported never being employed in that year. “We know that Wisconsin can do better. We should be paying attention to outcomes and this investment focuses our attention on what matters for families and young people. Research has demonstrated that, when provided high quality education and the necessary supports, students with disabilities will achieve academic proficiency on par with their peers and attain the skills needed for the workforce.”

DPI’s budget also addresses increased funding pressures on districts and local taxpayers. Wisconsin has not increased special education funding since 2008. Over the last twenty years the state’s share of special education costs has eroded from 44% to 26% while overall costs rise, leaving local communities to pick up the tab or reluctantly decrease the quality of supports to children.

“This eroded funding has translated to significant impacts on students,” says Lisa Pugh, Disability Rights Wisconsin Public Policy Director. “Parents tell us sometimes nurses are not available to help with their child’s health needs in school, there is not an aide to assure safety at the bus stop and there is no money for training to ensure teachers have the skills and planning time they need to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities.”

To meet these concerns DPI proposes increasing funding to at least 30% of a district’s special education costs in year two of the budget and will confront the concerns, particularly of small school districts, by proposing to pick up 100% of costs to educate “high cost students” (above $30,000) who have significant needs that districts struggle to meet.

In addition, Disability Rights Wisconsin is pleased to see DPI has finally addressed discriminatory open enrollment policies that have prevented parents of students with disabilities from being able to move to a neighboring public school in the same way families of students without disabilities can.

“This is the budget year to invest in students with disabilities in our state,” says Pugh. “Addressing the achievement gap for this group of students, focusing on employment outcomes by working more directly with employers and meeting the funding needs of districts will be a great return on investment for taxpayers.”

Disability Rights Wisconsin looks forward to working with the legislature and the Department of Public Instruction to move these essential investments forward.

According to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) 2012‐2013 Data:

• Only 13% of 6th graders and 14% of 10th graders with disabilities were proficient in reading.
• Less than one-third of 3rd graders with disabilities were proficient in math. For 10th graders, math proficiency is at only 14%.
• More than a third of students with disabilities do not spend at least 80% of their day in the general education classroom where core content is being taught with peers without disabilities.
• Of students who left high school one year ago, 58% reported never attending any further education or training and 27% reported never being employed within a year of leaving their secondary placement.

Click this link to read DRW’s media release:
Disability Rights Wisconsin Applauds Proposed Investments in Students with Disabilities.