NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 21, 1996

Private schools offer a breathtaking array of specialized services for youngsters with disabilities and other special needs, disproving teachers' unions charges that they accept only the best students. Schools have been established to cater to teen mothers, recovering alcoholics, chronic truants and the learning impaired.

  • More than 3,000 private schools across the country enroll nearly 100,000 children with disabilities.
  • In Minnesota, for example, students recovering from drug and alcohol abuse may attend Sobriety High School near Minneapolis -- one of 19 private high schools in the state that last year helped 1,200 at-risk students get a second chance.
  • Sobriety High costs taxpayers $3,500 annually per student -- about half what Minnesota spends on a public school student.

Such schools save money by operating with fewer regulations, have greater leeway in staffing and curriculum and are rarely bound by collective bargaining agreements.

The High Road School in New Jersey focuses on children with emotional and learning disabilities.

  • School administrators explain that students come to High Road after failing academically and socially in public schools.
  • Public schools often place unruly students in the private schools when they disrupt classrooms and interfere with the learning of other students.

In addition to learning disabilities, private-sector schools serve children suffering from mental retardation, visual impairments, chronic illnesses and other disabilities.

Schools like Sobriety High and High Road belie the myth that the public schools are a dumping ground and that private schools take only the academically gifted, according to educators. What remains to be seen, they say, is whether the education establishment will continue to block efforts to afford others that opportunity.

Source: Janet R. Beales (Reason Foundation), "Educating the Uneducatable," Wall Street Journal, August 21, 1996.


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