Strickland: Line-item veto special ed voucher plan in budget bill if it doesn't come out beforehand

From today’s Akron Beacon Journal:

…legislators in the House and Senate not only restored [Ed Choice vouchers] in their versions of the budget, they went another step. They created a new pilot program for special education students in kindergarten through 12th grade to transfer to private schools or to other public school districts.

Such a new course in education policy demands at the least that a proposed program be presented in a stand-alone bill, examined and approved or rejected on its own merits. As it is, the voucher program is being hustled into the relative safety of a budget bill, legislators unlikely to vote down an entire spending plan because of a single program, flawed or not.

The new voucher program raises several issues. One is expense. The pilot program would cap participation at 3 percent of the total of eligible students in the previous school year. Last year, about 260,000 public school students had special education needs. The state spent about $438 million on special education. Fully funded (on the basis of the $20,000 cap for the most expensive student), the program would cost $156 million a year. It is unlikely all of the voucher students would come close to maximum cost. Still, the program would make available a substantial portion of special education dollars for a tiny fraction of students, raising reasonable questions about effective allocation of public funds.

Another concern is accountability, a responsibility to ensure private schools accomplish the services paid with public funds. Legislators provided the Department of Education no new money to administer the program, according to the state schools superintendent. Instead, they are expanding an expensive program without adequate means for oversight.

And where have we heard this failure to look before you leap, to provide for oversight and properly fund it before, a previous failure which is now giving Ohio financial problems?

Answer, if you can’t get it on your own: CHARTER SCHOOLS.

Use your line item veto, Governor. Please use it, if you can’t otherwise get that language out of there.

7 thoughts on “Strickland: Line-item veto special ed voucher plan in budget bill if it doesn't come out beforehand

  1. Paul – we are agreed on the more money doesn’t mean a thing concept. I’ve never advocated for a wholesale just give more money thing re: education.As for the special ed piece, there’s an economy of scale that occurs with serving that population. That’s one reason why it’s hard to get in smaller, more isolated areas and to remove kids from the ones with larger concentrations means ensuring that no one really gets all that they need.To be an accredited public school, I believe you DO in fact have to operation special ed programs – it’s a federal law. I’m not sure what situations you’re contemplating.I’m not 100% sure that I would ALWAYS and forever be against money following the child, but how it does that – I don’t think it’s charters or vouchers as currently existing in Ohio.

  2. I think the special needs kids could be given special vouchers that are worth more money.The dialog is worthwhile to me. Many perceive that I’m advocating a shift of money from public schools to private schools. That’s not it at all. What I’m trying to suggest is that we give parents a choice of which public school their kids attend and have the money follow the kids.The current school funding system extracts money from citizens and gives it to the school district in which they live. All I’m saying is that we give the parents back a voucher that they can take to ANY public school. It doesn’t have to be an actual piece of paper — just the authority to demand reimbursement from the state.Maybe to be an accedited public school, you must operate a special education program, or be in partnership with another school that does.All I know is that the answer isn’t more money, or even better distribution of money. The problem is embedded much deeper in our society, and is getting worse.Nor is there one solution for the whole state. As I’ve said before, there are three distinct economic areas in the state: 1) farmland; 2) Appalachia; and 3) the metro complexes. This voucher/open enrollment concept works only when there is actually a choice of schools available, as in the case of the metro area. The other two truly have money problems and we should send them more.But let’s not try to solve all three situations with the same approach.PL

  3. Dave – thanks. An important element of the back and forth is the fact that IDEA is a federal law, so schools (public and private) have to deal with multiple sets of rules, some of which conflict and are not enforced or interpreted by the same courts. This adds another layer of difficulty in serving the kids – ALL kids – the best we can.

  4. Lisa Renee and Paul – The points you raise cause me to think about my main reservation about moving away from the current way in which we fund our public school system: I don’t trust that the people who get the money will give it up the way a working system would require them to AND I cannot imagine that the amount of the voucher will ever be satisfactory.In other words, the same pleas we hear now about “more money needed” isn’t going to change just because we have vouchers. Instead, the state will tell us, here’s your voucher – make it work, or not. Then what? That causes me enormous anxiety whenever I think about money following a kid.

  5. There’s also a question of how special ed students are recognized… This is ridiculous: the public district has to test and identify a student, develop an IEP for him/her, then send the child on to a private school? What if a parent wants to pay someone outside of a school agency to determine that the child is special needs? Or, can the private school test the child, write an IEP, and then request vouchers? Can a private school determine that all of its students are special ed? Or, Can a private school send all of its students back to the home district to receive testing and a determination as to whether the child should receive services? Looks to me like an invitation to corrupt the identification process for all the wrong reasons. I’m with you, Jill: the gov needs to get his veto pen out.

  6. It probably is worth mentioning that the money we’re talking about isn’t the schools’ or the state’s. It’s money raised through taxes collected from the people.Our public school system is broken. We use economic discrimination, which is legal, as a stand-in for racial discrimination, which isn’t. The result is almost the same. We can’t clear our conscience by sending more money to the urban schools, because money can’t fix the problem any more than ‘separate but equal’ policies could.A pure voucher system would give every kid a voucher and require every accredited school to accept such a voucher as 100% tuition. No for-profit schools, and all accredited schools have to meet the same standards. But the kids can attend any school they want, and not be trapped in failing urban schools because they can’t afford to move to the ‘burbs.If that means the current urban school system goes out of business, so be it. Someone else will figure out how to create a replacement that is effective.You can still have private schools, and for-profit schools. They just can’t get vouchers redeemed by the state.Why wouldn’t this work? Not my idea by the way: Milton Freidman about 25 years ago. Have any of these politicians and educators read his stuff?PL

  7. Another concern for me would be what happens when the private school makes false or other promises they are not able to keep and the child has to return to a public school environment. The public school system is then required to spend it’s own dollars since the tax dollars would still be with the private school which creates an even larger strain on public school budgets. At the very least if they are going to do this there should be someway for the money to follow the child rather than the current system.

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