The special needs voucher proposals that are being pushed in Wisconsin did not originate here.
Other states have been used as laboratories for special needs vouchers, most notably Florida, whose long-running McKay Scholarship Program was exposed in 2011 as having sparked “a cottage industry of fraud and chaos.”
The standard template for special needs voucher programs nationwide is the Special Needs Scholarship Program Act model legislation created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization made up of corporations and state legislators. No parents or disability advocacy organizations were at the table when the model legislation was developed.
According to the Alliance for School Choice 2013-14 Yearbook, there are 13 state-based programs — voucher, tax credit, education savings accounts — in which tax dollars are designated for special education in private schools. In all these programs, students forfeit their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Fortunately, there is at least one other state besides Wisconsin in which parents have successfully resisted the onslaught of special needs voucher legislation: Mississippi, where the Parents’ Campaign reports that all the school privatization bills introduced in 2014 (including several related to special needs) failed to pass.
Selected news and opinion from other states:
Arizona: Arizona Attorney General files consumer fraud lawsuit against private special needs school (Phoenix Business Journal, 5/30/2014) The New Segregation: School Choice in AZ Takes New Meaning If Your Child Has a Disability (Phoenix New Times, 5/15/2014) School vouchers are eroding resources for children with special needs (Arizona Daily Star, 3/12/2014)
Florida teachers union files legal challenge to voucher expansion law (Miami Herald, 7/16/2014)
No services, no vouchers. Period. (Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, 6/27/2014)
Learning disabled get money, but not always help (Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, 6/13/2014)
Private schools used vouchers for special-needs children who were not enrolled, judge says (Tampa Bay Times, 5/19/2014)
Long “waiting list” for Florida vouchers doesn’t actually exist (Washington Post, 3/29/2014)
McKay scholarship program sparks a cottage industry of fraud and chaos (Miami New Times, 6/23/2011)
Making the Public School Choice (Defend Kansas, 4/8/2014)
Voucher bill died fitting death (Clarion-Ledger, 5/5/2014)
Gov. William Winter: Special Education Act would leave children more vulnerable (DeSoto Times Tribune, 4/18/2014)
The problems with NC vouchers and sending public money to private schools (News & Observer, 7/8/2014)
School vouchers lead to less accountability (Laurinburg Exchange, 4/3/2014)