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October 16, 2019 · OPINION

Del. Webert wrong about special education vouchers

By Steve Kadilak
The Plains

Delegate Michael Webert (R-Marshall/18th) professes to be a strong supporter of public schools and yet, in 2016, he co-sponsored legislation that provides special education vouchers for a “school choice” option for children with disabilities.

There are several concerns with this program for Fauquier County residents. First, the voucher program would result in depleting the already underfunded special education program in our county. Second, federal law requires public schools to provide a broad range of programs and services to children with disabilities. No such mandate exists for private schools. Last but not least, there is no private school in our area that can provide services and support equivalent to what our public schools offer.

With 24 years of experience in Fauquier County Public Schools starting as a special education teacher and, later, as a school principal, I witnessed the challenges facing our students with special needs.

I also have a profound personal experience in this area. My son was diagnosed with numerous learning disabilities as well as the need for speech and language services as a young child.

Like every parent facing this situation, I was concerned about his future. Our public schools proved critical in helping my son reach his highest potential. His experience exemplifies that of most special needs students in our local public schools. Needless to say, I have tremendous respect for our Fauquier County special education professionals.

Unlike his opponent, candidate Laura Galante, Mr. Webert has never attended public schools in Virginia. The fact that he would support a voucher system to reduce public school funding for private school enrichment should give voters pause.

Does Mr. Webert believe that private schools provide a better education than public schools? If so, can he honestly purport to be a champion of our public schools, particularly in the special education area?

My wife and I are standing strong for our public school special education program and funding. Voters might think carefully about Mr. Webert’s track record on “school choice” vouchers for children with disabilities when casting their vote on Nov. 5.

In our view Ms. Galante is the better choice. She was educated in Virginia public schools and ultimately, achieved success as a cybersecurity expert. She appreciates the value of a public school education and pledges to support Fauquier County Public Schools, including special education resources.

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Jeannette Griffin · October 20, 2019 at 11:56 am
Did you forget your medication again, silli?
Silii · October 16, 2019 at 1:07 pm
Mr. Kadilak is quite accurate. Federal and state law require all school districts to provide a "free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment" to students with disabilities. This means that special services must be provided in settings with nondisabled students to the maximum extent appropriate. Thus, the law requires that determinination of "least restrictive environment" begins with considering placement in classes and programs with nondisabled students, then removing the student from the regular setting a small percentage of time, etc. Placement in a private school to meet special needs is the very last option to meet placement requirements and is used very infrequently. Private placements are extremely expensive for school districts. Providing vouchers to send children with special needs to private schools is simply NOT an answer and could very easily violate state and federal law. In addition, vouchers are OUR tax money budgeted to public schools, hence, private school vouchers drain high amounts of money from the public schools while fattening the profits of private schools that often do not need to meet state education laws. I doubt if Mr. Webert had any idea what he was voting for. It just sounded good because someone told him what to do. That is not good representation and makes one wonder how many other times he has just sat back and followed orders. So, he's had his chance. period. I'm tired of my taxes being used in an ignorant way. I want an energetic, engaged state delegate who intentionally learns the issues that come before the legislature and can negotiate and work across the aisle.
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