NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

School Choice Helps The Disabled

July 26, 2002

Opponents contend that school choice will hurt disabled children. However, a recent study finds that just the opposite is true.

According to a new international study by the Yankee Institute, school choice would greatly benefit disabled children in the United States. In other countries, special education children are thriving far beyond American standards with school choice.

  • In Denmark, where the government's commitment to fund private education dates back to 1899, more than 99 percent of learning-disabled children are educated side-by-side with mainstream children.
  • The number of special school systems in the Netherlands has fallen from 14 to 4 since 1990, when the government began awarding educational stipends to parents of learning-disabled children to use at mainstream schools.
  • In Australia, a 1998 study found that intellectually and physically disabled children who studied in mainstream schools under the country's school choice program were achieving literary and math skills equal to their peers.
  • In contrast, Britain's attempt to limit parental choice to public schools has created special education ghettos, confining children to failing schools in poorer districts.

The study also applauds Florida's "A+ Plan." Under the new law, parents of a special-needs child can receive $6,000 to $20,000 to place their child in a private school. The program has been extremely successful at integrating special-needs children into mainstream schools:

  • During the 2000-2001 school year, 105 private schools enrolled more than 900 special education students.
  • During the recent academic year, officials estimated the number of learning-disabled students receiving private school assistance would quadruple to 4,000, while the number of participating schools will triple to more than 300.

Instead of segregating disabled children in special education ghettos, school choice gave those children a chance to succeed.

Source: Lewis M. Andrews, (Executive Director of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy), "More Choices For Disabled Kids: Lessons from Abroad," Policy Review, April & May 2002, Hoover Institution.


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