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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Vouchers and Choice

The Council for Parent Attorneys and Advocates has a report titled  School Vouchers and Students with Disabilities: Impact in the Name of Choice.  Key findings:
  • Parents often choose a voucher regardless of the availability of civil rights protections due to the urgency of their child needing to change schools. 
  • Parents like knowing they can explore their options when vouchers are available, even if they end up keeping their child in the neighborhood public school. 
  • Little data exists with regard to families choosing vouchers that limit or terminate IDEA rights once those families leave the traditional public school. 
  • Voucher funding is rarely sufficient and generally does not cover the full cost of the child’s education, meaning that only parents with adequate finances have a choice. 
  • Some schools accept children with a disability (and the voucher funds) and then expel them for behavior or other reasons forcing the children back into a poor or inappropriate school situation. 
  • Special‐education specific voucher programs typically fail to include all students with disabilities and it is rare for programs to accept students who are twice exceptional.
  • Too little data exists to compare the academic outcomes of students with disabilities [and other students] participating in voucher programs to public school students.
From the report:
Some states that offer special education vouchers distinguish the voucher amounts depending on the disability of the student. Ohio’s Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program provides students with disabilities with a range of maximum scholarships based on the student’s disability.Ohio also has an Autism Scholarship Program, providing public funding for students with autism to attend their non‐district school. All students with disabilities are otherwise eligible for the Jon Peterson Scholarship, with the amount depending on their disability category.Voucher amounts are determined through a complex funding formula that considers the average cost to educate a “typical student in a typical classroom” plus the estimated additional costs of providing special education and related services based on the child’s disability. This past year, Louisiana implemented a “School Choice Program for Certain Students with Exceptionalities.”This program provides vouchers for students with the following disabilities: autism, developmental delay, mental disability, other health impairment, specific learning disability, traumatic brain injury

“Actually, some districts won’t identify students as having autism or as being IDEA eligible so that parents can’t access {the scholarship} since much of the money comes out of the district’s budget.”