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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Special ed vouchers help some, but not all

Many states offer vouchers for students with disabilities, writes Christina Samuels on Ed Week. “Many parents who accept those options say that the powers and protections that are outlined in the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act existed for them only in theory,” she writes. “Battling a school district over their child’s education was something they didn’t have the time, money, or knowledge to take on.”

Cynthia Greaux uses vouchers to send her children to a Florida private school that specializes in students with dyslexia. Photo: Angel Valentin/Education Week

Students who move from public to private schools lose some rights, Samuels explains.  In public schools, “individualized educational program, or IEP, must be drafted with parent input. It’s also harder to suspend long-term or expel a student with a disability than a student without one.”

Private-school students do not have  “an individual right to special education services, though local districts are supposed to provide ‘equitable services’ to private school students within district boundaries.”

But those rights were no help said Tera Myers, who used Ohio’s special-needs vouchers to send her son, who has Down’s Syndrome to a private school.

“I found due process to be a hindrance to me. I didn’t have the money for it, I didn’t have the time for it,” Myers said. “At the public school, I was at their mercy.” In contrast, at her son’s private school, she was able to negotiate an appropriate education for her son. And if she didn’t like what the school was doing, she had the option not to pay the school and to find another educational option, she said.

Lynn McMurray, a Prescott, Ariz., mother, tried public and private schools. She’s now home schooling three of her children. Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account funds school supplies, online programs and therapy.

Here’s the case for special-education vouchers in Education Next.

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