MILWAUKEE, WI – Four years after receiving a complaint against voucher schools for discriminating against students with disabilities, Wisconsin still isn’t holding these schools accountable. 

In 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation, and Disability Rights Wisconsin filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, charging that the voucher system operates in a discriminatory manner by failing to accept, serve and accommodate students with disabilities. The complaint was filed against the State of Wisconsin, the Department of Public Instruction and two voucher schools.

“Since the time we filed our complaint under the Americans with Disabilities Act, hundreds of children with disabilities have returned to Milwaukee Public Schools from voucher schools – after the voucher schools have received state payment for those children,” said Managing Attorney Monica Murphy from Disability Rights Wisconsin. “Our complaint outlined how families were told not to apply to voucher schools because the schools indicated they could not serve them, and how other children with disabilities, once enrolled in a voucher school, did not receive the supports and accommodations they required.”

“These serious problems have gone on long enough without being resolved,” Murphy stated. “Students with disabilities are still discriminated against and do not have equal access to educational opportunities afforded by these taxpayer funded voucher schools. That is simply wrong.”  

“This failure of voucher schools to serve children with disabilities has also led to increased concentration of children with disabilities within the public school system – while the voucher funding formula takes money from public schools, leaving them with fewer resources to serve these  children,” added Karyn Rotker, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Wisconsin.   “As USDOJ has recognized, the state of Wisconsin and DPI cannot continue to operate a publicly-funded school system that discriminates against children with disabilities.”


The ACLU of Wisconsin is a non-profit, non-partisan, private organization whose 7,000 members support its efforts to defend the civil rights and liberties of all Wisconsin residents. For more on the ACLU of Wisconsin, visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @ACLUofWisconsin and @ACLUMadison.

Disability Rights Wisconsin is a  non-partisan,  non-profit organization and the federally designated Protection and Advocacy agency for persons with disabilities in Wisconsin. DRW protects and advocates for the rights of all people with disabilities, including children with disabilities in schools and residential settings.