To the Editor:
While research on autism is to be commended, the Policy Matters Ohio study of the Autism Scholarship Program exhibits some serious flaws (“Analysis Criticizes Ohio Vouchers Targeting Students With Autism,” April 2, 2008).
The study fails to uncover even obvious reasons for the observations of its author, Piet van Lier. For example, it criticizes the scholarship program for paying for services in a nonschool setting. But when approximately half of the scholarship recipients are preschoolers who need effective early intervention, why should they necessarily be in a classroom setting before they’re of school age?
Likewise, in the rush to identify potential “inequities,” the study fails to look meaningfully at whether these students’ individual learning needs are being met more effectively because of the scholarship program. High parental-satisfaction rates and a yearly participation-growth rate of 50 percent suggest that students are in fact succeeding because of this program.
The study rightly recognizes the need to boost teacher training in public schools. But improving them can be done without blasting the other options available. Criticizing a private educational option has never improved a public school. But, as one parent points out in your article, this scholarship and the competition it has fostered have actually helped motivate public schools to improve their offerings for students with autism.
The Autism Scholarship Program is a step in the right direction because it empowers parents of students with autism and levels the playing field so that families across the economic spectrum can have access to appropriate services for their children.
Rather than offer fewer choices to students with autism, Ohio should work to make this opportunity available to all children with disabilities.
Chad L. Aldis
School Choice Ohio
A version of this article appeared in the April 23, 2008 edition of Education Week as Autism-Program Study Is Said to Be Flawed