Since 1990, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) has empowered thousands of Wisconsin families to send their children to the school of their choice—helping enroll students in the institutions that best cater to their individual needs and giving parents the opportunity to choose private schools when they would not otherwise have the means to do so.
In 2013, the Department of Justice (DOJ) wrote to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) with concerns that the MPCP is not in compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The letter directed the agency to develop new procedures for the program.
I am worried that DOJ is using the ADA to pursue a political agenda against school choice programs. Title II of the ADA only applies to public entities, while Title III of the ADA has different standards that apply specifically to places like private schools. This distinction was made on purpose because Congress wanted to protect the rights of the disabled without closing the doors on private businesses.
As a long-time proponent of the ADA, I am fully aware of its intended purpose. In 2007, I introduced the Americans with Disabilities Restoration Act (ADA) and was proud when President George W. Bush signed the bill into law. Protecting the rights of Americans with disabilities has been, and will remain, a priority of mine in Congress, and I fully support conducting oversight on publicly funded programs to ensure they provide equal opportunity for participants with disabilities.
More than 100 private schools take part in MPCP, and they are no more publicly funded than a gas station that accepts payment from a SNAP recipient. Therefore, I am seriously concerned about the effects of DOJ’s incorrect application of Title II on the viability of the Wisconsin voucher program.
Earlier this month, I wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding answers about DOJ’s investigation of MPCP and explaining the different ADA compliance standards created by Congress for private and public institutions.
I eagerly await a response that ensures the protection of school choice programs in Wisconsin.