Could the Texas Senate Bill be an anti-civil rights policy? A new article by The Dallas Morning News analyzes a clause that would create taxpayer-funded discrimination against children with disabilities.
In the text of Texas Senate Bill 176, authored by state Sen. Mayes Middleton, R-Galveston, is the following clause: “A child with a disability attending a private school may not receive the services a child with a disability attending a public school is entitled to receive under federal and state law.”
To put it simply, the bill does not hold private schools accountable. If adopted, private schools would receive tax-payer money and would not have to adapt curriculum, assessments, or performance standards to accommodate potential voucher recipients, like students with disabilities.
SB 176, would grant participating families the average amount of money it costs Texas public schools to educate each of their children, which is about $10,000 a year. However, with no accountability, most private schools will deny admission to the costliest students — those with disabilities.
The Dallas Morning News points out a pattern in other states where this has already happened. In Arizona, the family of James, a 15-year-old student with autism, received a $40,000 voucher. Unfortunately, James was denied admission to every private school in his city.
In Florida, Ayden, a 9-year-old boy with autism, ADHD, and a seizure disorder, is eligible for an $11,000 per year voucher. However, Ayden has spent eight months searching for a private school within driving distance that will accept him.
In Texas, we have 600,000 students with disabilities in public schools. Meanwhile, private schools in the state currently only serve 6% of all children and will be limited in their capacity to help new students, especially those with disabilities. If vouchers are implemented, private schools will likely turn down students with disabilities – creating a discriminatory taxpayer-funded education system.
For this reason, the Council for Exceptional Children and other national disability-rights groups strongly oppose vouchers and describe vouchers as an anti-civil rights policy. The Dallas Morning News makes the case that Texas policymakers should follow the states where voucher systems have been rejected, like Idaho, Michigan, and Virginia.
“Our tax dollars are better spent improving special education in public schools, which should include addressing the state’s 20-year-long special-education and related service provider shortage, a 2,752-1 student-to-school-psychologist ratio, and a backlog of special-education identification requests made by parents and teachers,” reads the article.