North Carolina sets special needs children free, will Texas be next?

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The North Carolina legislature has passed an Education Savings Account program for children with disabilities as a part of the budget. If the budget becomes law as expected North Carolina will become the sixth state to join the ESA family.

Next month Texas legislators will return in special session, and Governor Greg Abbott has put a choice program for special needs children on the session call. Governor Abbott quite rightly has called for a choice program as part of an effort on the part of the state to dig itself out of a deep hole with special needs parents after 12 years of secretively running a de facto cap on the number of children who would receive services. Today in the Texas Tribune I make the case for why such a program would be especially beneficial to special needs children in Texas:

Put yourself in the shoes of a special needs student or parent for a moment: Would you desire a limited set of options and cold-blooded state policies discouraging districts from meeting your needs? Or would you desire a system in which you have additional options if things don’t work out?

Lawmakers can and should take other actions to improve the dismal state of special education in the Lone Star State. However, any reform effort should include the broadening of opportunities and should not preclude other efforts. After all, children with disabilities will only have the best opportunity to thrive and flourish when they have the ability to choose their service providers.

During the same period Texas bureaucrats covertly implemented a cap, Arizona lawmakers began increasing the options for special needs children. Let’s see how that has been working out for the special needs children:

K-12 reactionaries dragged us through the court system twice trying to stop us from offering options to these students in Arizona. We had to invent an entirely new form of school choice in order to ultimately prevail.


4 Responses to North Carolina sets special needs children free, will Texas be next?

  1. Barry Stern says:

    The problem with several ESA proposals is that the funding amounts don’t help much for children with severe disabilities. For real freedom, break apart funding and institutional responsibility for diagnosis and prescription from filling the prescription as I explain here:

  2. matthewladner says:

    I agree with your basic premise Barry, and in fact the Florida ESA program allows parents to become eligible with a medical diagnosis.

  3. Jason Bedrick says:

    Barry, for the record, NC students can get up to $9,000/year through the ESA plus another $8,000/year through the special-needs voucher. On top of that, low-income families can get another $4,200/year through the low-income voucher for a total of $21,200/year.

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