What's New

Disability Rights Wisconsin Names Tom Masseau as New Executive Director

Disability Rights Wisconsin, the state’s designated protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities, has hired Tom Masseau as its new Executive Director, effective January 16, 2012. He replaces Lynn Breedlove, who retired after 31 years.

Tom has spent 24 years working at the Michigan protection and advocacy agency, most recently as the Director of Government and Media Relations. He is a graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in Public Administration. Well known nationally through his leadership position as the chairperson of the legislative committee of the National Disability Rights Network, the national organization of protection and advocacy agencies, Tom will bring to DRW his strong disability values and passion for people with disabilities as well as extensive knowledge and experience in legislative advocacy, coalition building, planning and policy development.

Tom may be reached at Tom.Masseau@drwi.org or 608-267-0214.

“We are excited to welcome Tom to DRW. The DRW Board conducted a national search for Lynn Breedlove’s replacement and is confident that Tom will bring strong leadership and commitment to protecting the rights of Wisconsin citizens with disabilities to DRW. The agency will continue the same level of passion for outstanding individual and systems advocacy work on behalf of people with disabilities that is expected from and for which DRW is known throughout the state and nationally,” says Jeff Timm, DRW Board President.

Disability Rights Wisconsin, a private non-profit organization, is part of the federally mandated national system of disability protection and advocacy agencies across the United States to ensure the rights of children and adults with disabilities. DRW is a statewide resource for individuals, families, service professionals, elected officials, government agencies and others concerned with disability issues and systems change. The agency operates out of 3 offices: Madison, Milwaukee, and Rice Lake. DRW helps people across Wisconsin gain access to services and opportunity through advocacy and legal expertise. We regularly challenge systems and society to create positive change and improve the lives of people with disabilities.

Legislature Moves to Lift the Caps on Family Care and IRIS

On January 11th the legislature began circulating a bill to lift the caps on Family Care and IRIS – long-term care programs that provide supports to adults with disabilities. Disability advocates have been asking for this legislation since long-term care programs were frozen by the legislature in July and waiting lists started to grow. The Survival Coalition, of which Disability Rights Wisconsin is a member, sent this message to the full legislature and will continue working to ensure that this bill is passed. Click here to read the message on the Wheeler Report website.

Senate Education Committee Passes Seclusion and Restraint Bill

We are pleased to report that the Senate Education Committee passed SB 353, the seclusion and restraint bill, unanimously on January 11, 2012.

U.S. Dept. of Ed. Office of Civil Rights expands data collection

DRW just received a letter from the Office of Civil Rights to DPI informing DPI that it will collect Civil Rights data from ALL school districts (rather than a sampling) for the 2011-12 school year. This data includes educational services and outcomes for all public school students, disaggregated by race/ethinicity, sex, limited English proficiency and disability. It includes data about graduation rates, discipline and seclusion and restraint. We look forward to examining this data when it becomes public. Click here to read the letter.

Assembly Education Seclusion and Restraint Hearing goes well

The Assembly Education Commitee held its hearing on AB 455, the seclusion and restraint bill on January 10, 2012. It went very well as no one testified against it, and the School Administrators Alliance testified that it “enthusiastically” supported the bill. Here is DRW’s testimony on the bill: testimony AB 455.

Seclusion and Restraint bill to move forward

DRW is pleased to annouce that Sen. Luther Olsen has agreed to sponsor a bill to limit the inappropriate use of seclusion and restraint on children in schools. He will circulate it for bi-partisan co-sponsors soon. This bill is a product of collaborative negotiations with DPI and the School Administrators Alliance. Click here to read the bill.

Wisconsin Disability Advocates Sound Alarm about Special Education Funding

Survival Coalition Makes Plea to U.S. Department of Education to Disallow Funding Reductions

The Survival Coalition of Wisconsin Disability Organizations representing more than 40 member groups issued a letter today urging the U.S. Dept. of Education to uphold the law and deny local Wisconsin School District requests to reduce special education funding.

The letter reiterates that current law allows sufficient flexibility for local school districts and underlines congressional protections that are intended to ensure students with disabilities are not harmed by funding reductions.

The Survival Coalition asked that Wisconsin not be granted additional flexibilities in response to the unfortunate choices it made to reduce public school funding by $1.6 billion. Advocates state that flexibility should not harm the most vulnerable students in our schools—those with disabilities.

Read the letter from the Survival Coalition to OSEP Director Melody Musgrove here: Local IDEA letter.

Read the letter from Wisconsin School Administrators to Congresswoman Gwen Moore here: Rep. Moore letter.

Education Week coverage of this story:
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/speced/2011/12/some_wisconsin_school_district.html

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel coverage of this story:
http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/disability-rights-advocates-warn-of-special-education-cuts-p139avg-134907033.html

Education Budget Cuts-Parent Survey

The Wisconsin legislature cut $1.6 billion from the 2011-13 public education budget. Parents of children with disabilities have important information to share about how cuts may be impacting their children in their classrooms. If you have one or more children with disabilities attending public school in Wisconsin, you can participate in a short survey to collect this information: Education Budget Cuts Survey.

The survey asks for basic information about your child’s experience in school this year compared to last year. You will also be able to tell your child’s story in your own words. You can indicate that you want your answers included in the survey results anonymously. Or, you can give us your child’s first name. You also can supply a picture of your child for possible use in a report documenting any impacts budget cuts have had on Wisconsin public schools.

Please share this survey with other parents who have children with disabilities and with school staff and disability organizations that can disseminate it. We will publish survey results widely – with the general public, Governor, and legislators.

If you have any questions about the survey, please feel free to contact any of the survey sponsors toll-free:

- The Board for People with Developmental Disabilities (BPDD) 888-332-1677
- Disability Rights Wisconsin (DRW) 800-928-8778
- Wisconsin FACETS 877-374-0511

Equal Justice Fund Tribute to Lynn Breedlove

In their recent annual dinner program, the Equal Justice Fund included a tribute to Lynn Breedlove. The Equal Justice Fund raises monies for 3 WI legal service providers: DRW, Legal Aid Society, and Legal Action of WI. Lynn has served on the Equal Justice Board since 1997. Click the following link to read the tribute: EJF Tribute to Lynn.

Lynn Breedlove receives Self-Determination Award

On November 9, Lynn Breedlove received the first Diehard Lifetime Achievement Award, “in recognition for distinguished service and a tireless commitment to self-determination.” The award was presented at the annual Self Determination Conference in Wisconsin Dells.

Congratulations, Lynn!