July 1, 2010

 (Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So despite the odd note of protest here and there, Florida’s McKay Scholarship program continued to march across the country this year with the birth of twin offspring programs in Oklahoma and Louisiana. There are many reasons for this progress, including information like this:

For those of you squinting at your IPAD (I wish I was as cool as you, by the way) the pretty chart that I can’t get the blog to make bigger shows the reading scores for Florida and the National average on NAEP for public school children with disabilities. Back in 1998, both Florida and the nation had only 24% of children with disabilities reading at Basic or Better. In the most recent 2009 test, the national average had improved to 34%, but the Florida average had improved to 45%. That means that a child with a disability is approximately 26% more likely to be reading by 4th grade than the national average. It’s worth mentioning that the national figure would look a bit worse if it were possible to exclude the Florida numbers.

As I have mentioned before, Florida’s progress has multiple sources, but we do have evidence linking the program to improvement in scores for disabilities in public schools. McKay helped, and certainly didn’t hurt.

So now the fun part: who will be next?

Florida, Ohio, Utah, Georgia, Arizona, Oklahoma and Louisiana have jumped in with private choice programs for children with disabilities. The water is fine! There are a number of other reforms to special education that states should undertake, including universal screening, but none of these are mutually exclusive with the McKay approach. States need to focus like a laser on early literacy skills, remediate children who are behind, get the diagnosis correct, and give the maximum amount of choice to children with special needs.

My guess is that the next state or states will be in Big 10 country. Indiana, Wisconsin or Ohio with an expanded program (Ohio currently has a voucher program for children with Autism). Maybe all of the above.

Make your prediction now for 2011. Winner gets a coveted JPGB No Prize!

Special Needs Voucher Program passes in Louisiana

June 25, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

A bipartisan group of legislators in Louisiana have passed a pilot voucher program for children with special needs in Louisiana.

I think this makes Louisiana the sixth state to pass a private choice program for special needs children (Florida, Ohio, Utah, Arizona, Oklahoma having already done so).

More details later, but for now:



I’ll start a betting pool on the next state to pass special needs vouchers soon.

Oklahoma Oks Special Needs Vouchers

May 26, 2010


(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Big news out of Oklahoma today: lawmakers passed the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program. Governor Henry, a Democrat, is expected to sign the bill. Text of the bill here (starts on around page 12).

Great win for the kids in Oklahoma, and hopefully a sign of things to come for even broader K-12 reform.

Arizona Supreme Court Hears Voucher Arguments

December 9, 2008

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)


The Arizona Supreme Court heard arguments today in the case against the two voucher programs for special needs students, and for children in foster care. You can read the Arizona Republic account here.

Andrew Morrill, Vice President of the Arizona Education Association, notes in the article that public schools are “transparent.” Well, the NAEP does find that 74% of children with disabilities in Arizona public schools score below basic in 4th grade reading, which is significantly worse than the 64% nationwide average. So…Morrill has got me there, but unfortunately for him, the transparency of which he boasts reveals an appalling lack of effectiveness.

If we’d like to equal the amount of transparency for private school students, well, we will need to get the NAEP to increase the size of their private school sample. The state’s testing system…well, don’t get me started.

I had the opportunity to listen to about half of the oral arguments. I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t play one on TV, so I was awfully confused by many of the assertions made by the bad guys. As it stands, plenty of Arizona students are educated at private schools at public expense and have for many years, and that is okay, so long as it is the school districts doing the choosing of private schools.

If you have the parents do the choosing, however, the ACLU would have you believe THAT, now that is unconstitutional.