Two Okla. Districts Say No To Special Ed. Voucher Program

By Christina A. Samuels — October 08, 2010 1 min read
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Back in June, I blogged about a new special education voucher program in Oklahoma that will pay tuition costs for students with disabilities to attend private schools, starting this year.

Now, two Tulsa-area school districts have said that they will not comply with the law, saying that it is an unconstitutional diversion of public funds to religious institutions.

Rep. Jason Nelson, a Republican in the Oklahoma House of Representatives who sponsored the bill, is irate, calling the move of the two school districts “grotesquely irresponsible.”

Broken Arrow and Jenks are the districts saying no to the new law. Probably not coincidentally, both districts are represented by the same attorney, Doug Mann, who told them that the state constitution precludes these tuition payments and could be a “huge financial hit” for districts.

There’s no set dollar amount that would be given to each student. Instead, the amount of the scholarship would be either the private school’s tuition or the amount of per-pupil state aid that would be given to the school district where the student is enrolled, whichever is less.

What’s fascinating to me is that I had no idea that school districts could just decide on their own not to comply with laws like this. Who knew? Based on Rep. Nelson’s comments in one article, the only way the law can be enforced is if parents choose to sue their district, which puts families in a pretty difficult spot. And according to an article in the Broken Arrow Ledger, several districts are considering banding together to deflect any legal costs.

I’ll definitely be watching to see how this one turns out. Apparently eight Broken Arrow families have applied for these funds. And I’m sure there are school choice supporters willing to back them, too.

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