School Vouchers Impact on Special Ed

School vouchers: How do they impact special education?

Do school voucher programs that educate disabled students mean more children will be diagnosed with a learning disability? That’s the question a new study by the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, tries to answer.

The study, How Special Ed Vouchers Keep Kids from Being Mislabeled as Disabled, examines Florida’s John M. McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program, the first and largest such school voucher program nationwide.


Florida taxpayers paid about $134 million for more than 20,000 students to attend about 890 private schools last year using the McKay scholarships, according to the state department of education. There are similar programs in Ohio, Georgia, and Utah. Florida’s started in 2000.

So, do more kids get diagnosed with learning disabilities so their parents can send them to a private school via voucher, or so public schools can get more money from the state to educate students who learn differently? No.

The study concludes “special-education voucher options lead to a reduced number of special-education diagnoses.” The reason Florida’s program has grown, the study says, is because more schools now accept McKay scholarships; not because more students are being diagnosed.

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