Special Voucher Results
June 19, 2003
A stock argument against school vouchers is that they'll be used only by the most gifted kids, leaving the hard cases behind. But now comes evidence from Florida showing that vouchers have worked well even for special education students.
A pioneer in school choice, Florida offers something called a McKay Scholarship to any special-ed student in Florida's public schools. More than 375,000 students are eligible, and some 9,000 use the program. Researchers from the Manhattan Institute conducted a pair of telephone surveys with parents of current and former McKay students.
What they found was a far higher degree of satisfaction with the McKay schools than with the public schools. While nine out of 10 parents currently in the McKay program were happy with the treatment of their special-needs children, only one in three were similarly satisfied with public schools.
Average class size fell dramatically in McKay schools (12.8 students) compared with public schools (25.1). So too did the incidence of bullying or physical abuse against kids with disabilities. In public schools nearly half were bothered often and a quarter were physically assaulted, compared with only about one in 20 in McKay schools.
All of this is being accomplished, by the way, without spending more money. Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords has used his media megaphone to claim for years that special-ed is underfunded. But nearly three of every four McKay parents report that they spent nothing, or less than $1,000 a year, on top of the payment they received from the Florida voucher to get these superior results for their children. If Mr. Jeffords really cares about special-ed kids, he'll propose that Florida's program be imitated nationwide.
©2003 The Wall Street Journal