Repost of an NSBA email I recieved late today:
Please contact your U.S. Representative on the House Armed Services Committee today to urge him/her to reject an amendment that may be offered tomorrow to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 (H.R. 1540). The amendment would provide private school vouchers for military-dependent children with special education needs.
NSBA has learned that an amendment may be offered to the bill during the House Armed Services Committee markup tomorrow morning (Wednesday, May 11). It would provide vouchers to military-dependent children who currently attend public schools (and receive services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA]) to attend a private school. A similar voucher proposal was included in the Senate version in last year’s defense authorization bill that NSBA, in conjunction with our state associations and grassroots members, successfully defeated. This program would most likely undermine—rather than improve—the education of these students.
Students attending a private school with a voucher would not necessarily receive all of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) services they currently receive in a public school. Private schools are also not bound to follow the same inclusion practices or meet highly qualified teacher standards as public schools. Parents would lose the procedural safeguards under IDEA.
Vouchers are unnecessary because students whose needs cannot be met already have the right to attend a private school and retain protections guaranteed by the IDEA.
Existing special education voucher programs, such as Florida’s McKay program and the Ohio autism vouchers, have failed to improve the education of students with special needs.
Vouchers would dilute the dollars provided under the Federal Impact Aid Program to public schools.
Public schools are meeting the needs of military children through such initiatives as the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, which has been enacted by lawmakers in 35 states and is expected to eventually be adopted by all states.
Potential Alternatives to Vouchers
Rather than funding vouchers, Congress could increase the budget line item for Impact Aid for students with disabilities.
Increase staffing and empower the “Office of Community Support for Military Families with Special Needs” as required by the FY 2010 National Defense Authorization Act so that it can achieve its purpose – to enhance and improve Department of Defense’s support around the world for military families with special needs children, including such benefits as referrals for services and obtaining services.
Thank you for your advocacy efforts—and contact your member because Congress is listening!
Sincerely, Kathleen & The Advocacy Staff
Kathleen Branch, MEd, CAE
Director, National Advocacy Services
Office of Federal Advocacy & Public Policy
National School Boards Association