ICYMI: Tony Evers Denies Funding to Special Needs Students

[Madison, WI] – In case you missed it, Tony Evers has proved himself to be the “anti-special education governor.” In his budget line-item vetoes, Evers refused to give Lakeland STAR, a Minocqua charter school that serves special needs students, additional funding.

With his background in education, Tony Evers should understand that schools like Lakeland STAR can be life-changing for students whose needs aren’t always best served by traditional public schools. As Lakeland STAR Governance Board member Gregg Walker told PBS Wisconsin: “Regular schools aren’t equipped to handle sensory issues. The kids can’t learn. There aren’t enough speech therapists — kids only get 20 minutes a week of speech therapy.”

This comes after Evers tried to cap enrollment in all of Wisconsin’s school choice programs, including the Special Needs Scholarship Program, in his proposed budget. It’s clear that Evers only cares about education when it serves teachers union bosses and his donors in special interests — not special needs kids.

Read more from PBS Wisconsin below:

Republicans Voted To Give This Minocqua School Extra Funding, But Evers Said No
PBS Wisconsin
Zac Schultz
July 19, 2021

Tony Evers calls himself the “Education Governor,” but Republicans say he didn’t live up to that title when he vetoed $750,000 budgeted for a tiny charter school in northern Wisconsin.


“It’s my baby, my ask,” said Rep. Rob Swearingen, R-Rhinelander. Lakeland STAR is in the 34th Assembly District, which he represents.

Swearingen said he has been a big supporter since it was created in 2018.

“It was obvious this was a special school with special kids with special needs,” said Swearingen.

Lakeland STAR is a charter school within the Lakeland Union High School District, which covers Minocqua and the surrounding area. STAR School serves 7th and 8th grades, while STAR Academy covers high school. Its mission is to serve students with sensory needs, including children with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum.

Eric Mikoleit is Lakeland STAR’s director and lead teacher. He testified before a Joint Finance Committee public hearing held April 21 in Rhinelander.

“The needs of our community regarding autism services, diagnoses, is profound in the Northwoods,” said Mikoleit. “Our mission at our school is for our students to discover their unique potential, maximize their capabilities, providing a transition-focused, personalized program.”

The day before the public hearing, Swearingen said he invited several members of the Joint Finance Committee to travel to Minocqua and tour Lakeland STAR.

“They needed the money to expand,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Swearingen has convinced fellow Republicans to provide extra funding for the school. In Wisconsin’s 2019-21 budget, Lakeland STAR was set to receive $250,000, but Gov. Evers vetoed that funding as well with a similar message about not picking winners and losers in education.


“Regular schools aren’t equipped to handle sensory issues,” said Gregg Walker, president of the Lakeland STAR Governance Board and one of the founders of the school. “The kids can’t learn. There aren’t enough speech therapists — kids only get 20 minutes a week of speech therapy.”