Ohio has expanded its school voucher program to include all special education students. This means that parents of kids who have special needs, of any kind, can get financial support to put their child into a private school. The public schools may face financial difficulties as a result of the voucher system.
According to Dictionary.com, a school voucher is “a government cash grant or tax credit for parents, equal to all or part of the cost of educating their child at an elementary or secondary school of their choice”. It may also be called an “educational voucher” or a “scholarship”.
Ohio has expanded their school voucher program to include all special education students. The voucher is now being called the John Peterson Special Needs Scholarship.
This is the third expansion of Ohio’s voucher program since 2004. At first, the vouchers were only available to children who had autism. Then, in 2006, kids who were in failing public schools were eligible for the vouchers. Today, any special needs student, who is attending any school, is eligible for a school voucher of up to $20,000. The amount depends on the severity of their disability.
There are many good things that are coming from the voucher system. It allows parents of children who have special needs to be able to choose the school that they feel will be best able to support the educational needs of their child.
For example, the parent can pick a school that offers smaller class sizes than the public schools do. The parents can select schools that offer better services for their child’s special needs than the public school currently is able to do. The vouchers give parents the financial support that they would need to pay for the tuition at a private school.
Special education teachers at the public schools might feel frustrated by the vouchers. Some of them have seen parents take their child out of the special education program at the public school, and place them into a private school where the special education program wasn’t as strong. They worry that the student won’t really get his or her needs met by moving to a different school.
In Ohio, it is the public school teachers who are required to write individual education programs, IEPs, for special needs students. If a student moves to a private school, the public school teacher still has the responsibility of writing that child’s IEP. The IEP’s are to be written twice a year.
This puts a teacher into a situation of being responsible for evaluating a student that they are not teaching, and may not know. Hopefully the private school will choose to communicate frequently with the public school teacher. Otherwise, the special needs student may be improperly evaluated, and be stuck with an IEP that doesn’t really help him or her.
Public schools get some extra funding that is earmarked to help the school to provide for what each special needs student requires. If the student moves to a private school, the voucher system can take up to $20,000 of state funding away from the public school. Some point out that the money should be following the child, no matter what school he or she attends.
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