Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

The Real Scandal Last Week

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Waukesha Freeman June 26, 2014 Page A5 Opinion

The real scandal last week

State DPI abuses funds for disabled children

Note: I'm not sure the new picture is better. Of course, the photographer is limited by his subject.

Note: I’m not sure the new picture is better. Of course, the photographer is limited by his subject. He did the best he could with the material (me) he had.


With the end of school you might have missed the biggest political scandal so far this summer. It’s a blockbuster.

No, not the document dump of the John Doe sequel investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign. While the behavior of the media was scandalous, there was nothing actually new in the documents themselves.

What did we learn? Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and his henchmen are partisans who don’t believe in the First Amendment? That the Government Accountability Board is an arm of the Democratic Party with state office space? That interest groups on both sides of the aisle work with politicians to advance a political agenda?

I can’t wait for John Doe 3-D to investigate the coordination between the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and WEAC. When those emails are exposed to the public, they will be hilarious reading. Unfortunately, no Republican district attorney seems interested in abusing their authority.

But I digress. I said the biggest scandal of the summer, and unfortunately I meant a real one. The state Department of Public Instruction, run by Superintendent Tony Evers, grabbed federal money meant for educating disabled kids to pay for staff to attend a conference on “white privilege.”

The MacIver Institute reported last week that Evers’ agency used federal IDEA money to send eight staffers to the national conference on political activism and political correctness in the classroom. IDEA stands for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the purpose of the program is to ensure, “services to children with disabilities throughout the nation.”

While reasonable people might determine that there is something wrong with the Department of Public Instruction, moral obtuseness is not yet classified as a disability.

Wisconsin taxpayers were the victims of other educational institutions spending taxpayer money to send employees to the conference. For example, the Monona Grove school district spent over $10,000 for staff members to attend, and then spent nearly $3,000 on substitute teachers to cover.

The next time you hear about the high cost of higher education, consider the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. They spent $16,000 to be a sponsor of the conference and to send 15 University of Wisconsin staff and 13 students to the conference.

Attendees of the conference were able to attend seminars such as, “Stories from the front lines of education: Confessions of a white, high school English teacher.” According to the MacIver Institute, the session facilitator told attendees, “Teaching is a political act, and you can’t choose to be neutral.”

So much for English teachers actually teaching “Hamlet.” Instead the kiddies get to read the Democratic Party platform.

Yes, it’s bad that taxpayer money was spent on this left-wing propaganda session masquerading as an education conference. However, the decision by the state Department of Public Instruction to use federal funds to aid disabled children to attend this conference is especially galling.

Ironically, it comes at a time when Evers and his staff are cooperating with Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department in its attempt to harass private choice schools, using children with disabilities as political cover.

It also comes at a time when state Rep. John Jagler’s bill to allow private school choice for children with disabilities who are denied open enrollment transfers is stalled in the Legislature.

Evers, of course, is ideologically opposed to school choice for any reason.

Jagler sent a letter to Evers demanding an explanation of why the Department of Public Instruction thought it was appropriate to use money meant to help children with disabilities for this political conference.

Jagler told Evers, “As a parent of a child with special needs, I am deeply disturbed that these funds were used to send attendees to a ‘white privilege’ conference, according to a MacIver Institute report, instead of going to special needs programs.”

We should all be deeply disturbed by this terrible misuse of federal money intended to help children with special needs. Unfortunately, we should not be surprised.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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