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October 11 2012

Shortchanging Special Needs Students, Part II

Vicki E. Alger

Several weeks ago the U.S. Department of Education reported for the sixth consecutive year, the DC Public School ranks worst nationally for failing to meet the goals of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)—the worst record nationally.

As Education Week reports, a new ED report from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) finds that:

…from 2009 to 2011, the agency received more complaints about disability issues than ever before in a three-year period. During that time, 55 percent of the total number of complaints the civil rights office received had to do with disabilities. To put that number in context, consider that OCR enforces civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in a host of other areas, including race, national origin, sex, and age. …

Topping the list was the issue of a free, appropriate public education, or FAPE as those with some special education knowledge will know. Nearly 4,700 complaints of the 11,700 received regarding disabilities had something to do with FAPE. The office for civil rights also launched 15 investigations around the country related to FAPE. …

Of the remaining complaints, complaints about retaliation numbered nearly 2,200. And more than 1,500 had to do with academic adjustments for students with disabilities, nearly 1,800 were about the exclusion or denial of benefits, and close to 1,100 dealt with disability harassment. OCR said it also launched 30 investigations regarding other disability issues.

School choice is a better way to get students with special needs the services they need, without all the bureaucracy and overhead. Seven states have special needs voucher special-needs student scholarship programs: Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Utah. Four states have special-needs student tax-credit scholarship programs, many of which include students from foster care and military dependents who often have special educational needs: Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Arizona became the first state in 2011 to offer parents educational savings accounts (ESAs). Under the program, parents who opt to take their children out of public schools receive 90 percent of the per-pupil funding their children’s public schools would have received to enroll them. With those funds parents can send their children to private schools, hire tutors, purchase special educational services such as online courses, or save for college.

Parents and their children shouldn’t have to wait years for public schools and government bureaucracies to act. Voucher and tax-credit scholarships, along with ESAs offer necessary options now.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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