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Legal safeguards tossed aside for students with disabilities at private schools

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Do you or someone you know utilize the school voucher program to send a student to a private school? Thousands of children attend private schools through a publicly funded voucher program that gives money to parents to cover costs of tuition. However, this educational perk may come at a cost for parents who have children with disabilities.

Students with disabilities that attend private school through the voucher program could be missing out on some legal safeguards, according to a report recently released by the Government Accountability Office. 

Certain protections are required for public schools that ensure specialized education plans and other services such as speech therapy and tutoring are offered. However, the same requirements do not exist for private schools. The report found that many states with voucher programs are not educating parents on how their rights change when a child with disabilities transfers to a private institution through the voucher program.

Of the schools surveyed, approximately half of the private schools offered little to no special-education services on their websites. Twenty-seven private schools were examined in 15 states, with some schools exclusively serving children with disabilities. In addition 17 families that had a student with disabilities were interviewed. These families participated in a voucher program and had their child enrolled in a private school. 

The study revealed that students with disabilities in these private schools were overlooked. Only 9 out of 27 school programs required tested their students and offered results to that testing. What is more shocking is that 10 of the programs did not require schools to conduct background checks on employees, and only 8 were required to participate in financial audits. 

The Education Department responded by defending the private school choice and voucher programs.

courtesy of Washington Post & Government Accountability Office