If Your Child Needs Learning or Behavior Supports From School, You May Want to Think Twice About the Voucher System



School Choice Means No Choice

Depending on which side of the coin you stand on, the growing debate over school choice in America is either causing you a lot of celebration or a lot of concern.  

And with 92% of students enrolled in charter schools in New Orleans, the debate over School Choice, which Education Secretary Betsy Devos is a strong proponent of, is worth taking a deeper dive into.

The idea of “school choice” has farther reach than most people are aware of and includes public schools, charter schools, and homeschooling. However, school vouchers are often at the forefront of the conversation, and while they potentially offer greater educational opportunities to students, parents need to know that private schooling opportunities may not be the best alternative for all children. Especially if your children require significant academic and/or behavioral supports.

Given the high out-of-pocket costs and the idea that which appears to be exclusively attainable is “better,”  it is the general assumption that private schools provide the best of everything relating to academics and athletics. However, because their funding source is composed of families and not state/federal dollars, private institutions are not required by law (IDEA) to provide supportive services (learning/mental health disability) that are 100% comparable to those administered within public schools.  

IDEA of 1997

Established in 1997, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 requires every state to have in effect policies and procedures to ensure a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for all students with disabilities. However, this law does not apply to private schools. And while IDEA Part B can provide benefits to students with disabilities who are placed in private schools by their parents, it does not impose the requirement, leaving private schools to make determinations on their own about admission and administration of learning supports.  

So, while the IDEA ensures that public school settings are required to provide Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) to students in need of supports, private schools aren’t held to the same expectations.  

What Supportive Services Do Private Schools Provide? IEP vs. Service Plans

Most are familiar with IEPs and what they offer to students within public schools, but they may have limited familiarity with service plans, which are relative to private education. Two years following the introduction of IDEA in 1997, the addition of service plans to students of private schools was added. It is important to know that while comparable in some respects, they are not the same regarding the availability and quality of services offered to students who require significant supports.  

Unfortunately, with our current presidential administration, frightening talks of amendments to education policies are forcing parents and advocates to scramble to keep up with crafty legislation in order to remain educated and empowered. And it is critical that we do so to ensure our future leaders have the best chances of success through education.

So, while an opportunity to enroll your child(ren) into a private school at little to no cost thanks to a voucher system may seem like the chance of a lifetime, parents must be informed of services made available within the institution before making the jump from public to private learning institutions.
Click here to read additional information on IDEA

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