WSJ on ESA and Jordan Visser

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The Wall Street Journal has a news story on the Arizona Empowerment Accounts program today. Notice especially the intellectual incoherence of the Scottsdale official trying to explain how it hurts the finances of the district to lose special needs students:

School districts say that even though state funding doesn’t cover the costs of special-needs students, they don’t necessarily save that money if a student leaves the district. The Scottsdale district says it pays about $10 million to $12 million more than it gets from the state and federal government to educate its special-needs students.

“If every student with special needs left, then maybe we would save that $12 million, but at the same time, it’s pretty implausible,” said Daniel O’Brien, chief financial officer of the Scottsdale district. He added that the schools would still have students with all kinds of other needs who may not qualify for ESAs, and they would still need to educate those students.

Did you follow that?  Scottsdale says that they use $10m to $12m in general education funds above and beyond what it receives in state and federal funding for special needs children.  I certainly agree that it is utterly implausible that all special needs students will choose to leave the Scottsdale district, but that whole line of thought misses the most important point: if a child leaves with their “inadequate funding” then you have no cause to cry about it.  You still have the $10m to $12m in the bank- now you just have more options with what to do with some of it- you might want to spend more on your remaining special needs kids, you may want to do a slightly smaller transfer from general ed to special ed, but either way the district wins.

Notice also that 90% of what the Scottsdale Unified would have received for Jordan Visser seems to be serving his needs quite well.

For the past three years, Ms. Visser has educated her son, Jordan, who has cerebral palsy, at their Scottsdale, Ariz., home. He has a packed schedule of one-on-one instructional sessions with a specialist, physical-education classes, music lessons, horse-riding therapy and other programs—all of which she pays for through a state-funded program informally known as the “education debit card.”

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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6 Responses to WSJ on ESA and Jordan Visser

  1. Mike says:

    Reblogged this on This Got My Attention and commented:
    Great points!

  2. Greg Forster says:

    CORRECTION: JPGB regrets to report that this piece was posted under an erroneous headline. The correct headline should read “Daniel O’Brien for the Higgy.” We apologize for the error.

    • matthewladner says:

      “He added that the schools would still have students with all kinds of other needs who may not qualify for ESAs, and they would still need to educate those students.”

      Um, right, that’s why we have local taxes and a state funding formula here in Arizona.

      • matthewladner says:

        Having read over those comments again, for some reason it is reminding me of the kid fumbling through a presentation before screaming “SAN DIMAS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL RULES!!!!” in the American film classic Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

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