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Lawmakers to Justice Department: Take your fishing expedition elsewhere

Top Republican lawmakers have stern words for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the state Department of Public Instruction regarding an “ongoing investigation” into Wisconsin’s school choice program.

“If Eric Holder wants to go fishing in Wisconsin, we have more than 15,000 lakes. (We) will gladly find him a boat and a guide,” State Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and state Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, wrote in a joint statement issued late Monday morning. Darling and Nygren are co-chairs of the Legislature’s powerful Joint Committee on Finance. “We won’t stand by and let the Obama Administration kick poor kids out of their schools at the expense of Wisconsin taxpayers.”

Last week, DPI sent a new and “unprecedented” notice to all administrators in the Wisconsin school choice program, requesting detailed information from private schools in the parental choice program regarding students with disabilities.

The state agency asks that the data be added to the annual Online Application System. Schools that participate in Wisconsin’s school choice programs use the OAS to enter student data and complete required reports.

Data regarding students with disabilities has never been included in that database. But more than a year after the Justice Department told DPI it was investigating the state program on allegations there is a systemwide policy of discrimination against students with disabilities within the private choice schools, the information suddenly has become need-to-know.

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