Last week, Johnson introduced an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Act of 2016 that would specifically bar the Department of Justice from enforcing the ADA for those private schools receiving public funding.
Background: Title II requires that state and local governments give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services, and activities, including education. From 2011 to 2016, the DOJ had been investigating Wisconsin’s voucher school program based on a claim from the ACLU that several voucher-funded private institutions had openly discriminated against students with disabilities, often excluding them from programming.
Paige Alwood, a spokeswoman for Ron Johnson said, “In a voucher program, the parent chooses to send her child to that participating school. Accountability is maintained, and possibly even enhanced, by the fact that a parent is selecting that school as being in the best interest of her child,” according to the Washington Post. According to the Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel, Johnson aide Patrick McIlheran said this amendment “would keep the DOJ from expanding its jurisdiction in ways the law does not permit.” Others see this as a serious concern. Recent law changes have increased access to voucher schools, and students with disabilities want the same access to those changes as anyone else. “We’re talking about schools that serve tens of thousands of children, and that would not have obligations under the ADA to reasonably accommodate children with disabilities,” said Karyn L. Rotker, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin.State Superintendent Tony Evers said, “”I am not sure how that fits the spirit and values of any system of education.” Removal of oversight does not typically produce good qualities for students.
Connection for English Language Arts/ NCTE:
The needs of all learners must guide every decision made in education. The 2014 NCTE Education Policy states: “Equity is paramount. Because all students have a right to expect a high-quality literacy education, educators, administrators, and policymakers alike must create the conditions that support literacy learning.” Removing oversight that would help ensure all students access to education is unwise.