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Saturday, December 2, 2017

School Voucher Programs Leave Parents in the Dark on Disability Rights, Feds Say

From Education Week's Blog
"Charters & Choice"

By Arianna Prothero
November 30, 2017

States are not doing enough to inform parents about the special education rights they give up when they enroll their children in private schools with publicly funded vouchers.
That's according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office that also urges Congress to compel states to tell parents about the tradeoffs they are making when they opt to participate in a private school choice program.

Many of the state private school choice programs, which include tuition vouchers and education savings accounts, are specifically targeted to students with disabilities.

Even though vouchers are funded with public money, when a parent switches their child from public to private school, they waive crucial special education rights granted to them under federal law—such as "discipline procedures and least restrictive environment requirements," says the GAO report.

Eighty-three percent of students using special education vouchers are participating in programs that provide inaccurate or no information at all on the federal protections families are giving up, the GAO found as it reviewed websites for voucher programs and the private schools that participate in them.

The GAO analyzed 27 currently running voucher and education savings account programs and interviewed officials with the U.S. Department of Education and the six largest private school choice programs, among others.

The GAO estimates that only about half of the private schools that participate in special education voucher programs offered any disability-related information on their school websites. That percentage of schools remained about the same when the GAO looked at all types of voucher programs.

The report says that as private school choice expands across the country, it is increasingly important to help parents make informed decisions.

"As more than half of the current private school choice programs are designed specifically for students with disabilities, it is critical that parents have access to quality information about changes in special education rights when they are considering moving their child from public to private school," the report concludes.

You can read the full report here: "Private School Choice, Federal Actions Needed to Ensure Parents Are Notified About Changes in Rights for Students With Disabilities".

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