ERIC Number: EJ879335
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Reference Count: N/A
The Case for Special Education Vouchers
Buck, Stuart; Greene, Jay P.
Education Next, v10 n1 p36-43 Win 2010
The big battles over school vouchers in American education have focused on programs serving low-income children who live in urban areas. Milwaukee's program, begun in 1990, is the biggest and oldest in the country, and the District of Columbia effort, funded by the federal government, has been the most carefully studied. Both have been focal points of intense, partisan disputes, and both have been threatened by legislative actions in the past several months. But, even when they are considered together, those two programs are not as large as a hardly known, originally noncontroversial voucher innovation, the special education voucher. Four states--Florida (1999), Georgia (2007), Ohio (2003), and Utah (2005)--have special education voucher programs that together serve more than 22,000 students. Special education voucher laws are very simple. The parents of any child found in need of a special education (in Ohio, only students with autism) can ask the school district to pay for their child's education at a school the parent has identified as appropriate. Special education vouchers have a political advantage that vouchers for low-income students lack: they can benefit not only the poverty-stricken disadvantaged, almost never a politically potent interest group, but also anyone who has a child with disabilities, a population that crosses all social and economic boundaries. The concept also stands on particularly strong constitutional grounds, in as much as special education vouchers add nothing in principle to the rights established by federal law in 1974. Unlike the procedures established under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), school-voucher laws give parents the right to select a private placement without having to convince public school officials of the need for such services, to say nothing of the legal costs of proving to a hearing officer, or a state court judge, that the decision of the school district was in error. The rights of parents are seemingly identical under IDEA and under special education voucher laws, but the ease with which parents can exercise those rights is profoundly different. Special education vouchers change the mechanism by which services are ensured for disabled students. Rather than forcing dissatisfied families to accept subpar services or to pursue legal action for relief, vouchers permit a lower-conflict, lower-cost method for resolving disagreements about the adequacy of public school efforts.
Descriptors: Public Schools, Parent Rights, Income, Federal Legislation, Disabilities, School Districts, Urban Areas, Federal Government, Educational Vouchers, School Choice, Educational Legislation, Disadvantaged Youth, Special Needs Students, Private Schools, Educational Quality
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: District of Columbia; Florida; Georgia; Ohio; Utah
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act