School Choice & Charters

Arizona Vouchers for Students With Disabilities Ruled Constitutional

By Nirvi Shah — January 27, 2012 1 min read
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An Arizona law providing private school tuition to students with disabilities has been ruled constitutional by a county superior court judge, the Arizona Republic and Associated Press report.

Arizona’s scholarship program pays up to 90 percent of what a school district or charter school would have received to educate a student. Parents can use the money for private school tuition, textbooks, online classes, and other expenses.

Gov. Jan Brewer applauded the ruling, which comes after a previous Arizona voucher program for students with disabilities was ruled unconstitutional. The current program revamped the old model, expanding the uses of the money from only tuition to a list of options.

“I’m especially supportive of these accounts because they put funding directly in the hands of parents, allowing them to choose the school that best serves their child,” the governor said in a statement.

Already, Arizona lawmakers have drafted bills to expand the voucher program. One house bill would provide vouchers to all students, not just those with disabilities.

The Arizona Republic reported that some of the groups that sued to end the program said they will appeal.

About 100 students use the program, and more are waiting for their paperwork to clear. On average, students’ debit cards were loaded with about $13,000, the state department of education told the newspaper.

Several other states allow public money to be used on private school tuition for students with disabilities, including Florida, Georgia and Utah. Ohio allows students diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder to use a voucher for education services from a private provider.

As I’ve written before, many special education advocates caution parents to think carefully before sending their children to private schools, where federal laws’ protection of their educational rights disappears.

A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.