(Guest post by Greg Forster)
I missed this when it was signed into law a couple weeks ago, because it’s not what you traditionally think of as “expanding” a school choice program. But in addition to its new school choice program, Oklahoma has (ahem) “expanded” its existing voucher program for special needs students:
House Bill 1744 by State Rep. Jason Nelson (R-Oklahoma City) and State Sen. Patrick Anderson (R-Enid) changes the law so school districts will no longer administer the program. Instead, the Department of Education will administer it.
“Last year, several school districts failed to provide scholarships to eligible special needs students, flagrantly violating the law,” said Nelson. “Thanks to the modifications in this bill, the State Department of Education will administer the program rather than local school districts. This will provide consistency and certainty for students and parents who choose to participate in the program.”
Last year, lawmakers voted allow a student with a disability (such as those with Down syndrome or Autism) who has an individualized education program (IEP) to receive state-funded scholarships to attend a private school. The scholarships come from the amount of money already designated for the education of those children.
After the program went into effect last August, several Tulsa-area schools voted to break the law, leading lawmakers to adjust the program this year. [ea]
A little bit like Eisenhower sending federal troops to “expand eligibility” for schools in Little Rock.
Does this bring me to twelve enactments in my bid to run up the score on poor Jay Mathews? Alas, no. In the set of definitions we agreed to for purposes of the bet, “expanding” a program means “increasing the eligible student pool, or increasing the amount of funds available to support the program (on either a per-student or global basis).” As I wrote to Mathews at the time: “That’s in your favor because I’m agreeing not to count, say, relaxation of burdensome restrictions on participating schools as an expansion.”
It also means sending in the cavalry to force the powers that be to obey the frikkin’ law also doesn’t count.
Stay tuned! The year’s not done yet…