Sunday, February 18, 2007

School Scholarships/Vouchers

One of my nephews is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. This means he falls into the range of diagnoses for autism, but he is high functioning. His parents have struggled to find him schooling and therapies. Not every private or public school is anxious to see him walking through the door. Recently his mother locked up her business, and his father relocated his so they could move across state to a school district where he could be enrolled in a school that provided services for him. Not all children with his developmental disability are able to enjoy such privileges. If the school he currently attends should restructure or lose funding for his services in the future, his education may be threatened.

Texas parents of children like my nephew are rightly frustrated. Currently they are met with numerous roadblocks that look like an obstacle course of Catch-22’s. Not every school district is equipped to serve autistic children. Those who are unprepared yet attempt to do so anyway often do more harm than good. Parents are geographically “locked out” of enrollment in districts where good services for their children is available if they do not live in that district. If parents place their children in private schools, then special needs services are likely impossible to receive for a variety of red-tape reasons. Yet the parents are still tax payers, providing the funds for services that go to public school attendees.

These Texas parents are banding together in an effort to correct the system. They are fighting for legislation that will provide autistic children with scholarships allowing them to attend the school of their choice. This is similar to the voucher system. You can read about it here and here. Ohio has already adopted this plan. Connie Sadowski of Austin, TX, has a chart demonstrating how successful the scholarship/voucher program has been where it is being used. It's an idea worth considering in other states, if yours doesn't already.


mcewen said...

It is such a complicated issue, and no doubt differs in every State and School District for that matter.
I've found that some public school districts are favourably disposed towards having special needs children because of the extra funding. It is a pity that there isn't a more unified system to give parents a clearer picture of the way ahead.
Best wishes

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Deaconess, thanks for the info.

I do live in Ohio, and one of my children has an autism diagnosis. The Ohio Autism Scholarship has a big drawback for us: there is a county-funded preschool in our area that has done very well with children like mine, and we would have to give that up to receive the scholarship. We can't take a lesser scholarship and still go to this school. At least we are given the choice, though, and as our child grows beyond the center we may need to use it in the future. Keep us posted on this stuff.