In The Politics of Autism, I write about special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Vouchers and charter schools are part of the ongoing debate.
The Autism Society signed onto a friend of the court brief developed by the National Disability Rights Network, The Arc of the United States, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), and other advocacy organizations in the case of Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue asking the Court to uphold the decision made by the Montana Supreme Court invalidating Montana’s private school tax-credit scholarship program as it is harmful to students with disabilities. While families petitioning the court suggest that the program would help students with disabilities, school vouchers and tax-credit programs like Montana’s actually hurt students with disabilities by redirecting public funds to private schools that are largely unbound by the federal laws in place for over four decades that protect the rights of students with disabilities.
When students with disabilities use vouchers or tax credits to attend a private school, typically they forfeit their rights mandated by federal law —including the right to an appropriate, individualized education—because the statute’s key provisions do not apply to private schools. At least seven states have voucher programs that require parents to explicitly waive all or most of their disability rights protections under federal law to participate. In other states, parents often do not realize the rights they are forfeiting: 83% of parents of students with disabilities in such programs report that they receive inaccurate or no information on the loss of those rights, according to a federal watchdog report. The Court has scheduled to hear oral arguments on January 22, 2020.