Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Cooperating School Districts: not very cooperative

Recently I read a few talking points that the CSD posted online regarding the special needs bills that are pending in the Missouri legislature this year. I found their arguments interesting, but filled with lots of holes.

1. They don't seem to be able to distinguish between the words "voucher" and "tuition tax credit." These words have very different meanings and to dismissively use "voucher" to describe all of the special needs bills is negligible. As defined by the Alliance for School Choice: "School vouchers allow parents to direct all or part of the funds set aside for education by the government to send their children to a school of choice. Education tax credits allow families to recover some of the expenses incurred in choosing a non-government-run school for their child’s education."

2. The CSD raises concerns about raising the quality of education and insists that the pending legislation makes no effort to ensure that. Yet, what I find interesting is that St. Louis County is currently home to the Special School District which openly contracts out with private schools now. When the school and IEP team feel it necessary, the SSD will send a child to a private school which can serve the child better. My question is: how does SSD ensure quality? How does SSD ensure accountability? If it's good enough for SSD to do, then why not parents too?

3. Missouri has modeled its legislation after other states that have successfully created special needs scholarship programs. The CSD has the "chicken little syndrome" insisting that the sky is falling - by implementing a scholarship program, the CSD is assuming that every eligible child will leave his/her current school. While research shows us from the other states that it's more likely that between 3 and 5 percent of eligible children participate. That is significantly less than what CSD would have us believe - it's not going to be a mass exodus out of public schools.

4. CSD says that these programs would give schools the power to choose instead of parents. They are saying that private and parochial schools have the right not to accept all students while public schools are mandated to do so. In effect, SSD is already using school choice - every time they decide whether a special needs child should remain in SSD or if the child could be better served elsewhere. CSD is assuming that parents are not intelligent enough to select a school that would be best suited to educate their children. These bills are not about trying to put a square peg into a round hole - it's not about enrolling in a private school because of its reputation, it's about finding schools that can provide an educational setting conducive to the needs of special needs children.

No comments: