NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 9, 2006

State and national data strongly indicate that over-identification of students in special education -- especially disproportionate representation among minority students -- is a real and growing problem in Kentucky.  The need to end the practice of over-identifying special-needs students, conserve limited public resources and direct those funds to provide services for genuinely disabled students are pressing public-policy concerns, says the Bluegrass Institute.

The Students with Special Needs Scholarship Program proposed by state Rep. Stan Lee represents a significant step toward achieving an identification-neutral funding mechanism: 

  • Parents dissatisfied with their children's progress could use scholarships offered by the program to send their children to another participating public or nonpublic for school needed services without having to hire a lawyer and go to court.
  • Scholarships would be worth the state's current SEEK (Support Educational Excellence in Kentucky) base amount -- guaranteed for every public-school student in the commonwealth -- plus the add-on funding for each student's disability type and would range from $4,300 to $12,000, depending on the severity of the disability.
  • Today, approximately 2,500 Kentucky students attend public schools outside their resident district or nonpublic schools to receive the special educational services they require; Kentucky has more than 400 nonpublic schools where tuition averages between $4,500 for elementary school and $6,700 for high school.

By implementing a more placement-neutral mechanism, the Kentucky Students with Special Needs Scholarship Program could help reduce the number of students over-identified in special education each year.  The program could also help curb the excessive compliance costs and reduce the regulatory burden of the existing adversarial separate-placement process for these students.

With the proposed scholarship program, parents and educators would no longer have to spend large amounts of time filling out paperwork or navigating through bureaucratic red tape, says the Institute.

Source: Vicki E. Murray and Arwynn Mattix, "Enable the Disabled: An analysis of the Kentucky Students with Special Needs Scholarship Program," Bluegrass Institute, November 6, 2006.


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