Providing vouchers to allow public funds to pay for special education students to attend private schools would save money and yield fewer diagnoses, a new study indicates.
Voucher programs for students with special needs already exist in Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Utah. Such programs typically allow students to attend a private school utilizing the public funding that would otherwise have paid for their education in public school.
In looking at Florida’s program, researchers at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research found that a student living in an area with an average number of private schools participating in the state’s voucher program is 15 percent less likely to be diagnosed with mild learning disabilities. Such disabilities represent a significant portion of the growth in special education students over the last 30 years.
The reason for the decrease in diagnoses, the researchers say, is that school districts tend to seek diagnoses for low performing students in order to place them in special education and receive extra funding. This financial incentive disappears, however, when voucher programs allow the public dollars to follow such a student to a private school.