- Congress should require states to notify parents and guardians of students qualifying for special education services that of their rights could be affected if they move the child from public education to private education services, the non-partisan U.S Government Accountability Office recommends.
- Some guarantees under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, including access to certain special education services and certified teachers and the right to an education in the “least restrictive environment," are not offered to the student if he or she is removed from the public school environment.
- A review of websites for more than 300 private schools that accept vouchers revealed that only about half provide online information about how accepting a school voucher would affect disability rights, and under current law, they are not required to provide that information.
Parents have a right to make an informed decision about their children’s education, and so it seems only logical that private schools inform parents of the potential effects of their acceptance of school vouchers under current law. However, there is nothing to prevent school administrators from providing accurate information on this topic to parents and guardians as well, especially if they have expressed an interest in the school voucher program.
Though the potential of losing these protections may seem to be a major factor in keeping students in the public school setting, some parents feel that the move to a private school is worth the risk. Unfortunately, public schools have not always proved to be the best environment for disabled students. Reports of special needs students being restrained or secluded have popped up in the news in recent months. And in March the Supreme Court had to expand rights for students with disabilities to ensure these students received more than the bare minimum of education at school.
Another study of participants in Florida’s McKay voucher program for students with disabilities found that 30.2% of voucher participants reported receiving all services required under federal law from their public school, while 86% said their choice school provided the services they promised to provide. In addition, 47% of participants were often "bothered" and 25% reported being physically assaulted in their previous public schools because of their disabilities, while only 5% percent said they were often and 6 percent said they were assaulted in their schools of choice. If public schools are to remain competitive in the school choice environment, they must be able to provide students the services and education they are promised in a safe environment. Otherwise, the federal “protections” mean nothing at all.