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New York Post


Pay Per Pupil

July 22, 2012

By Marcus A. Winters

How to contain the skyrocketing cost of special education in NYC

The first benefit of a special-education voucher system is that it will reduce the number of lawsuits, which can be costly and nasty. Rich parents might still haggle over exactly how much money their child should get. But the public school’s ability to offer the required services would become a moot point. If parents think the services offered by the public school aren’t good enough, then they can send their child elsewhere. No lawsuit required.

The voucher program also saves money directly. The expensive private placements that make their way into the news are quite real, but they represent a small minority of all disabled students. Most students with diagnoses have mild disabilities that make them more costly to educate than the average non-disabled student, but not astronomically so.

Since the voucher is at a maximum worth what the public school system would have spent on the student, the program is at worst cost neutral (minus the price of administrating the program). In practice, however, the program is a massive cost saver because public schools are more expensive than private schools.

According to the Florida Department of Education, McKay vouchers in Florida in 2010 ranged from $4,746 to $19,133. The average was $7,144. According to the US Department of Education, Florida spent an average of $12,744 per public school student in 2007-08 (the most recent year available).

So the average McKay voucher is substantially cheaper than what the public school system spends to educate a non-disabled student.

As a bonus, special education vouchers improve the education provided to all students in the public school system. How? By fostering competition. Research shows that public school systems improve in response to the risk of losing students to choice programs. Further, since disabled students are almost by definition among the lowest-performing students in a school, as they depart for a private school the average peer quality of the students who remain in public schools increases. Research shows this is directly related to improved student outcomes.

Recently published research by me and my co-author Jay Greene found that exposure to a greater competition from the McKay program in Florida was related to improved student achievement in nearby public schools.

Everyone wins from a special education voucher program. Disabled students get to attend their desired school without going through a lengthy and expensive legal process first; public schools no longer have to defend their practices in court; public school student outcomes improve; and taxpayers save oodles of dollars. It’s exactly the sort of policy that leaders in Albany should consider, especially during these tight fiscal times.

Original Source:



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