- Two new studies analyzing voucher programs in Indiana and Louisiana showed no academic gains for special education students using voucher programs, according to Education Week, with research from Indiana even showing that such students suffered losses in math and English/language arts.
- Parents of special education students who use a voucher to attend a private school often waive the rights granted under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act, which does not specify that students have a right to services when enrolled in private school.
- In Louisiana, an analysis found that the percentage of voucher applicants with special needs was similar to the statewide student average, and it also found that students with disabilities who took vouchers were almost 50% more likely to lose that identification than students without vouchers — though whether that is good or bad is hard to discern.
The survey’s findings mirror a burgeoning argument among administrators and special education advocates that has only intensified in the wake of the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, a school choice advocate and voucher supporter, as Education Secretary. With choice options, schools must be cautious that accessibility of services is not endangered. President Donald Trump and DeVos suggested there be $400 million in support of expanded voucher funding and other choice initiatives in a proposed budget last month, which indicates that more parents of special education students may have access to take advantage of private schooling.
A report from last year by the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates indicated that voucher funding typically does not cover the entire tuition difference for private schooling, which may be further exacerbated if parents feel additional services are needed that schools are not willing to pay. Administrators in district schools can work with parents to perform better outreach and ensure that parents are aware of the rights that may or may not be available for accessing services if they are in public or private schools, but district leaders should also be cognizant of the fact that school districts often are unwilling or unable to fully fund the specifications required by students’ individualized education plans mandated by IDEA.