One of the model laws circulated and advocated by the rightwing group ALEC is a voucher program for students with special needs.
ALEC, you may know, represents many of our nation’s major corporations. It has about 2,000 conservative state legislators as members and a few hundred corporate sponsors. ALEC crafted the “Stand Your Ground” law that the shooter invoked when he killed Trayvon Martin last spring in Florida. ALEC also crafted model legislation for voter ID laws that are characterized by its critics as voter suppression laws.
In education, ALEC has written draft legislation for vouchers for all, vouchers for special needs, charters, alternative certification, test-based teacher evaluation, and anything else they could think of to transfer public money to private hands and to undermine the teaching profession.
Ohio recently expanded its statewide voucher program, which was written originally for students with autism; now it is for students with disabilities of other kinds. This is part of the ALEC game plan to erode public support for public education. Read the article from Ohio. It says that the private schools are not accepting the students with the greatest need, and that some students who never attended public schools are now getting public subsidy. All combine to reduce public funding to public schools.
The Florida voucher plan for students with disabilities is called the McKay Scholarship program. It was embroiled in controversy when an investigative reporter discovered that the program was unsupervised, that some participating schools had no curriculum, no educational program and were run by unqualified people. Which raises the question of whether the point of the program is to help the children or to dismantle public education.
New York state has a similar program for pre-K special education students. Although it is not called a voucher program, it is almost completely privatized (and it predates ALEC’s agenda). The New York State Comptroller recently released an audit showing the program to be rife with fraud, inflated enrollments, corruption, etc. It is also the most expensive program for pre-K special education in the nation.
The private sector does not have all the answers. Neither does the public sector. Any program using public money should be carefully, rigorously supervised and regulated, especially when children are involved.