Special Education

Romney Proposes to Boost School Choice for Students With Disabilities

By Nirvi Shah — May 22, 2012 1 min read
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Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is expected to officially unveil his education platform as early as this week, but my colleague Alyson Klein already has a sneak peak at what he may pledge to do in the education arena if elected president.

Among the proposals is one regarding expanding school choice options for low-income students and students with disabilities, the document circulated over the weekend shows.

Romney says these parents would be able to choose which school their children attend, and the federal funds allocated to their education would follow them to their chosen campus, including any district public or charter school, online school or courses, private schools, or to a tutoring company.

There’s a caveat: the Romney campaign document says the choice of a private school would be offered “in accordance with state guidelines.”

Does that mean states would have to have private school voucher programs in place? Only eight states now offer vouchers for students with disabilities: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Utah, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Some special education advocates warn that parents who use vouchers to send their children to private school don’t realize they are giving up protections under federal disability education law when they do so.

The document also says states would get incentives to adopt open enrollment policies for these groups of children, something Arizona has offered for 20 years. And he would ask states to eliminate caps on the number of charter and online schools.

Romney would also expand the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program to serve as “a model for the nation,” his message points say.

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

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