This piece was produced for the NEW News Lab, a local news collaboration in Northeast Wisconsin. Microsoft is providing financial support to the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation and Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region to fund the initiative.
For parents and teachers, raising and educating a special-needs child can be all-consuming. Parents struggle to care and advocate for their children, who may have significant health, educational and behavior challenges. And teachers face tough working conditions that prompt many of them to switch districts or leave special education, creating a shortage of qualified educators.
Federal and state mandates require that public school districts in Wisconsin provide all of the special education services a student needs. Roughly 14% of students in Wisconsin are classified as having special needs, which include physical, intellectual, cognitive, emotional and learning disabilities.
But over the past five decades, state funding support for special education has declined precipitously. That forces districts — which must abide by revenue caps set by the state — to take money from the regular education budget to pay for services they are legally obligated to provide to special ed students.
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Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation, defines the meaning of social entrepreneurship, and explores the entrepreneurial mindset and approach of social entrepreneurs in dealing with social challenges.