Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 23
web designers. Why not, Greaux
asked, a special program for children with dyslexia?
"I don't feel like my kids' needs
were all that special," she said. But
her son, who was doing well in public school through one reading program, was switched to another that
didn't work for him.
"By putting the right services at
the [public] schools, you could solve
a lot of problems. ... I find it mindboggling that they can't staff for
such a common learning disability."
The umbrella term "school choice"
encompasses a variety of options,
including magnet schools, public
charter schools, and other programs
that help pay for private school tuition or for services for home-schooling parents.
The view from the White House
has been to support them all.
In a February address to a joint
session of Congress, President Donald Trump urged lawmakers to pass
a school choice bill aimed at "disadvantaged youth."
"These families should be free to
choose the public, private, charter,
magnet, religious, or home school
that is right for them," Trump said.
The president did not specifically
mention students with disabilities.
But DeVos, whose seeming unfamiliarity with special education policy
prompted stiff opposition from some
disability advocates before her confirmation, has said that students in
special education need a full spectrum of options.
"In far too many cases, the parents of students with disabilities
in the public schools are currently
not satisfied with the services their
children are receiving," DeVos wrote
before her confirmation in response
to one of more than 100 questions
from Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state. Murray is the top
Democrat on the Senate education
"But too often, the only way that
parents can obtain what is best
for their child is through legal recourse. This can take months and
sometimes years," DeVos wrote.
"Children don't have years to wait
for courts to decide."
As long as students with disabilities choose to remain within the
public school system, however, they
have an array of protections. For
example, a student's individualized
educational program, or IEP, must
be drafted with parent input. It's
also harder to suspend long-term
or expel a student with a disability
than a student without one. Except
in certain serious cases, schools
must go through a process to determine if a student's misbehavior
is a manifestation of his or her disability.
For students with disabilities enrolled in private school, those rights
do not exist. Nor do students in
private school retain an individual
right to special education services,
though local districts are supposed
to provide "equitable services" to
private school students within district boundaries.
The loss of protections, along
with a lack of viable private school
options, could be reasons why pri-
vate schools are used less often by
students with disabilities who are
covered under the IDEA. While
about 10 percent of all schoolaged children are enrolled in private school, just over 1 percent of
students with disabilities covered
under that law are placed by their
parents in private school. (Charter
schools are public schools, but independently run.)
But Myers said that the private
SCHOOL CHOICE FOR
STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
Special education students are allowed
to enroll in any school choice program
that is available in their state, but certain
voucher programs, educational savings
accounts, and tax credit scholarships are
open only to students with disabilities.
Succeed Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities
John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program
Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program
School Choice Pilot Program for Certain Students with Exceptionalities
Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship for Students with Dyslexia Program
Nate Rogers Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program
Special Education Scholarship Grants for Children with Disabilities
Autism Scholarship Program
Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program
Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities
Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarship Program
Special Needs Scholarship Program
EDUCATIONAL SAVINGS ACCOUNTS
school her son used, through the
support of Ohio's Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program, offered her far more control than the
public school system did.
"I found due process to be a hindrance to me. I didn't have the
money for it, I didn't have the time
for it," Myers said. "At the public
school, I was at their mercy."
In contrast, at her son's private
school, she was able to negotiate
an appropriate education for her
son. And if she didn't like what the
school was doing, she had the option
not to pay the school and to find another educational option, she said.
Myers eventually took a position
at her son's private school, Mansfield Christian School, and worked
with several nearby districts that
had families considering the Peterson scholarship. Her once-rocky
relationship with her local school
district has improved dramatically,
she said, and she has strong partnerships with others.
"Sometimes, it takes that alternative method to fix the system as it
is," she said.
For McMurray, in Arizona, her
three youngest children have an
array of special needs that just
weren't being met in a private or
public school setting, both of which
she tried, she said.
For example, her daughter
Alicia, 17, has Kabuki syndrome,
a rare disorder that causes developmental delays. In public school,
"their expectations were way too
low. They would say, 'Well, what do
you want us to do?' I want you to
challenge her. You having her sit at
a table, that means she's shut up,
quiet, and out of your way, but you're
a teacher-teach her."
In private school, the class sizes
were low, but her children were still
The public dollars, along with the
one-on-one attention she is able to
provide them as a home-schooling
parent, has helped the children blossom, she said.
"I think every parent in the
United States of America should
have this choice," McMurray said. At
the same time, she added, "it's not
for everybody. You have to be disci-
Empowerment Scholarship Accounts
Gardiner Scholarship Program
Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Program
Individualized Education Account Program
TAX CREDIT SCHOLARSHIPS
Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children
INDIVIDUAL TAX CREDITS/DEDUCTIONS
Refundable Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children
plined. You can't just say, maybe I'll
teach them today but not tomorrow.
You have to keep with it."
But for some parents, home schooling is not an option-and neither is
private school, even with a voucher.
Ambert, the Port St. Lucie parent,
had a difficult experience with her
local district. Her son's school was
not equipped to deal with his behavioral challenges, restraining him
so often that he came home from
school with bruises and was eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic
stress disorder. He is now receiving
instruction at home from the public
Ambert is currently trying to
decide what the best options are
for her son. An expanded voucher
program, she said, is not what she
needs. What she wants is a public
school option that can properly educate children like her son, who have
autism but can learn at grade level.
Even if she could find a private
school, "who's not to say they're not
going to kick him out within two
weeks? ... I just want somewhere
that I know that he can't be asked
to leave," Ambert said.
Private School Challenges
For other parents, private school
may not offer the right fit.
Brenda Ramirez, a Miami parent,
enrolled her 15-year-old son Ryan in
a local Roman Catholic school using
the McKay voucher program. He
has dyslexia and attention deficit
The school says that it has a
program for students with special
learning needs, but the reality has
been different, Ramirez said: large
classes, few accommodations, and
strict behavioral rules that leave her
worried that her son will be asked to
leave for minor infractions.
"If McKay was offering to pay for
part of a child's tuition, I thought
there would be some kind of stipulation that the school would have
to have some kind of [exceptionalstudent education] department,"
Ramirez said. The state, she said,
should say, "OK school, if you're
going to accept the McKay money,
you have to have the ability to teach
A return to the public system is
possible, Ramirez said, but she's
worried about her son having to
pass standardized tests in order to
earn a diploma.
"These tests are not road bumps.
They are like mountains kids have
to climb," she said.
From a policy perspective, parents
said they'd like to see a choice that
may be difficult to manage in today's
political environment: improve public schools and also provide school
choice for those who need it.
Maria Albrecht and her family
picked up and moved more than
60 miles from Pawleys Island, S.C.,
to Mount Pleasant, S.C., to enroll
their daughter in a private school,
which they pay for through support
from that state's Exceptional Needs
In a familiar refrain, Albrecht
said that the local public schools
didn't seem to offer the support
she believed her child needed. Her
daughter, now in 2nd grade, did not
have to enroll in public school to be
eligible for the scholarship.
But Albrecht's three older children, all boys, went through the
public school system.
"I am pro-public. I am for helping
the public system," said Albrecht,
who worries that vouchers are a
financial drain on school districts.
"There's so many families out there
that do not have the capability or
the money to do what we have with
our youngest child," she said.
When it comes to vouchers and
school choice, Albrecht said, "I'm not
for, I'm not against, I'm just ... What
is the answer? I have no idea."
Coverage of issues related to creating
opportunities for all American students
and their families to choose a quality
school is supported by a grant from
the Walton Family Foundation,
at waltonk12.org. Education Week
retains sole editorial control over the
content of this coverage.
EDUCATION WEEK | March 22, 2017 | www.edweek.org | 23
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 22, 2017
Education Week - March 22, 2017
The Hard Work of Making School ‘For Everybody’
Parents See Benefits in Spec. Ed. Vouchers But No Silver Bullet
Trump Education Dept. Has Yet to Hit the Gas
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Cybersecurity Skills in Demand
News in Brief
Social Media Connects Students to Authors
Fifth graders, from left, Braiden Roy, Pendarrin Cayer, and Lindsay Strout wave to an author visiting them via Skype in Oxford, Maine.
Arts Standards Stress Broad Concepts, Include Media Arts
Plan to Shut Detroit’s Failing Schools Reveals Lack of Options
Kentucky’s Schools Are Poised for a Massive Shake-Up
ESSA Rules’ Rollback Complicates States’ Planning Process
Tuning Up the Message No Easy Lift as Ed. Secretary Settles In
Deep Cuts Proposed for Ed.Dept.
Chris Doyle: Fake News Isn’t New
Nancy Grasmick: The Brain-Health Effect
Q&A With Gary Younge: Seven Bullets a Day
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Tyrone C. Howard: Why Are We Criminalizing Black Students?
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Cybersecurity Skills in Demand
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 2
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 3
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - News in Brief
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Report Roundup
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Fifth graders, from left, Braiden Roy, Pendarrin Cayer, and Lindsay Strout wave to an author visiting them via Skype in Oxford, Maine.
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 7
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Arts Standards Stress Broad Concepts, Include Media Arts
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Plan to Shut Detroit’s Failing Schools Reveals Lack of Options
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Kentucky’s Schools Are Poised for a Massive Shake-Up
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 11
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 12
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 13
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 14
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 15
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Tuning Up the Message No Easy Lift as Ed. Secretary Settles In
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Deep Cuts Proposed for Ed.Dept.
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 18
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 19
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 20
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 21
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 22
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 23
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Nancy Grasmick: The Brain-Health Effect
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Letters
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Q&A With Gary Younge: Seven Bullets a Day
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Readers React
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 29
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 30
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 31
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Tyrone C. Howard: Why Are We Criminalizing Black Students?
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - CW1
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - CW2
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - CW3
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - CW4