After I wrote two weeks ago about Missouri lawmakers’ considering vouchers for students with autism, Piet van Lier directed me to an analysis he did for a Cleveland-based public policy group on Ohio’s autism voucher program. It grants parents up to $20,000 a year in state aid in order to pay for educational services. The program served 734 children in the 2006-07 school year, at a cost to the state of about $10.8 million, and the policy analysis suggests that money would be better used to expand programs that can serve more children with autism.
My article will be in next week’s print edition, but it’s already up on the web. The comments on my Missouri blog post, plus the interviews I did for the Ohio story, make it clear to me that the parents who use such programs really love them. I asked parents if they were concerned that school districts might avoid bolstering their autism programs if they believed they could just shift parents onto the voucher program. Lori Peacock, a mother I quoted in the article, said she has heard of districts very pointedly making parents aware that they can take voucher money and go elsewhere.
Peacock, who has a 12-year-old son with autism, said she doesn’t feel like she can wait for districts to get their acts together. “They’ve had nine years to get it right for him, and they still haven’t gotten it right,” she said. “We need to have options.”
OK, teachers and administators--what do you think?
A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.