What will future Education Secretary Betsy DeVos do with special education? Most voucher programs currently go to students with disabilities. My guess is that there will be increased support with the new Trump administration and DeVos.
The following states have voucher programs for student with disabilities: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah and Wisconsin and Arkansas.
Many other states have been on the verge of passing voucher legislation and usually they start with special education.
Yet, there is no evidence vouchers do better than programs in traditional public schools. In most cases students do worse, and they lose their rights to due process under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
The McKay Scholarship Program
The McKay Scholarship Program in Florida is one of the better known voucher programs for students with disabilities, but it has had serious problems.
One of the most incriminating reports about the McKay Scholarship Program came from Gus Garcia- Roberts “McKay Scholarship Program Sparks a Cottage Industry of Fraud and Chaos” in 2011.
It is difficult to understand why anyone would want vouchers or not be concerned about charter schools after reading this report.
Why do some parents want vouchers?
Traditional public schools have been forced by corporate and legislative privatization supporters to cut special education programs. Since Public Law 94-142 gave students with disabilities the right to a public school education, politicians have sought to cut programs and funding to special education.
We see this in public schools where inclusion is pushed at all cost without providing the appropriate support to students with disabilities and/or gifted students. Placing students with disabilities in general education classes may cut costs, but it doesn’t necessarily mean students will get the help they need.
Many parents frantic to get decent services for their students are eager to accept anything that sounds better, even if the proof isn’t there.
I have known parents happy to get a smaller class size in a private school, even though there is nothing provided that I can see as better in the way of special services.
Universal Design for Learning is touted as a better way to address disabilities for all students. But if one peels away the surface what they find is online instruction for students with disabilities.
If UDL was really about individualizing and differentiating they would argue for smaller class sizes.
Placing students with disabilities on computers in warehouses is what we should fear. Or students will do their schooling at home alone on the computer.
In some places, special education vouchers aren’t used for special services, but to send students to religious private schools.
Most religious schools do not have qualified special education teachers. They may offer little in the way of special education services.
Some parents may get a good private school with a voucher, or even a decent charter school, but those schools are few.
The fact is we don’t always know how good a private school or charter is when it comes to serving children with disabilities. There are no safeguards.
The fear is to throw education funds at vouchers and charters with little regard to IDEA will mean the end of any special services in the long run.
We have to recognize that a lot of reformers want this very thing.