Moving from Caps to Freedom for Special Needs Children in Texas

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Yours truly is in the Houston Chronicle today on the U.S. Department of Education’s finding on the special education cap in Texas. Here’s a sample:

This sad affair reminds us of aspects of human nature we might feel more comfortable forgetting. Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram ran a series of fake experiments to test the willingness of people to obey an authority figure in the early 1960s. Milgram’s experiments asked students to administer what seemed to be electric shocks to subjects who were actors. Disturbingly, a large percentage of people were willing to administer what seemed to be fatal shocks if an authority figure told them to do so.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Education Commissioner Mike Morath took prompt action to end the TEA practices after the Chronicle revealed them. Education officials, however, have a long road to walk to restore broken trust. One of the best steps policymakers could take would be to make the families of special-needs children more independent of bureaucracies.

Several states – Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee – have given the families of special-needs students the ability to control their own education destiny by passing Education Savings Account programs. ESAs give these students an opt-out of the public school system in lieu of a state-funded account families can use to pay for individual public school courses, therapies, certified tutors, private school tuition and other expenses.

ESAs give special-needs families the opportunity to customize the education of their child. Families participating in these programs report sky-high levels of satisfaction, and two of the pioneering states that have been expanding options for special-needs students the longest – Arizona and Florida – have also demonstrated some of the strongest academic improvement for special-needs students remaining in the public schools.

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2 Responses to Moving from Caps to Freedom for Special Needs Children in Texas

  1. Michael Shaughnessy says:

    I appreciate this posting- having heard a lot about what was transpiring in Texas and if Texas is a representative sample of what is occuring in the United States, as indicated there is going to be a very “long road to walk to restore broken trust”. Parents TRUST teachers and the schools. Parents TRUST that the schools will do the right thing. Parents TRUST that their child will get an ” appropriate education” from kindergarten to 12th grade. And parents TRUST our elected officials to do with is right.

    • Greg Forster says:

      Trust can’t last where one side has all the power and the other side is powerless. School choice would repair relationships between parents and teachers/schools by giving the parents equal power.

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