I want my son, Troy, to take advantage of every opportunity available to him. When it comes to education I’m exploring all avenues: public, private, and even homeschooling. So what about vouchers?
Educational vouchers as espoused by the current administration seem like another opportunity for students with disabilities. Parents can take federal dollars away from their child’s public school and use it towards a private school of their choosing.
“We have to do something different than continuing a top-down, one-size-fits all approach,” Department of Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos argues.
More local control, more customization of education. Sounds good, right?
The problem revolves around federal laws that protect students with disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires PUBLIC schools to provide a free and appropriate education (FAPE) to students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment (LRE). These students are also guaranteed an individualized education plan (IEP) under federal law.
Asked yesterday, during a Department of Education Appropriations Hearing, whether or not DeVos would stop private schools taking federal taxpayer dollars from discrimination she said: “states should decide whether students taking vouchers are protected by special-education laws.”
This is a boon for private schools. They get federal taxpayer money and they don’t have to worry about the federal government holding them accountable.
Truth be told, many public schools do a poor job following federal special-education laws.
But here’s the bottom line: parents can always hold public schools to account if they’re not following the law. There’s always recourse through due process and courts. And federal courts more often than not have ruled in parents favor. As DeVos said there may be no such recourse for for parents taking federal vouchers to a private school under her plan.
To me this is unacceptable. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my tax money going to private schools that disregard federal law. All the while, public school funding is expected to take $1.9 billion dollars in cuts under Trump’s proposal.
Since DeVos’ controversial appointment hearing, I knew this day was coming. I knew vouchers were on the horizon.
To minimize the damage in my mind, I had lofty hopes that DeVos would reveal some magic plan where all kids with disabilities could use vouchers and still be protected under IDEA…because they are using FEDERAL TAXPAYER DOLLARS at these private schools. I now realize that’s just wishful thinking.