Children with disabilities are often poorly served by public schools. In 1999, Florida created a school voucher for children with disabilities called the McKay Scholarship Program. This program allows children with disabilities to take a portion of the funding the state would spend on their education and use it at any school they choose – whether that’s a traditional public school, a charter school, an online program, or a private school. Researchers have found that the program significantly improved learning ...
Children with disabilities are often poorly served by public schools. In 1999, Florida created a school voucher for children with disabilities called the McKay Scholarship Program. This program allows children with disabilities to take a portion of the funding the state would spend on their education and use it at any school they choose – whether that’s a traditional public school, a charter school, an online program, or a private school. Researchers have found that the program significantly improved learning among Florida’s children with disabilities. Ohio, Utah, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Louisiana have enacted voucher programs emulating McKay.
In 2006 Arizona also implemented a program for special needs children modeled on McKay, along with a separate voucher program for children in foster care. Unfortunately, the Arizona Supreme Court struck down these programs based on a provision in the Arizona Constitution called the Blaine Amendment. The Blaine Amendment prohibits aid or support to religious schools and 37 states have similar provisions.
The Arizona Supreme Court, however, implied in its ruling that there is a way to structure a program that would be compatible with the Blaine Amendment. This report offers a blueprint for creating that program based on the Arizona Supreme Court’s very own suggestion: the State should give education funds directly to parents and allow them to spend the money on a wide range of options and services.
This report recommends creating Education Savings Accounts into which the state would donate funds in exchange for parents agreeing not to enroll their child in a public school. Parents would be free to use the money for a wide range of educational services, including private school tuition. Not only should judges find such these accounts constitutional, but they would also hold distinct advantages over school vouchers. Those advantages include allowing students to save for college and encouraging the creation of innovative low-cost, high quality online and hybrid school models.
Dr. Matthew Ladner is a research scholar at the Foundation for Excellence in Education. He previously served as vice president of research and director of the Center for Economic Prosperity for the Goldwater Institute. Prior to joining Goldwater, Ladner was director of state projects at the Alliance for School Choice, where he provided support and resources for state-based school choice efforts. Ladner has written numerous studies on school choice, charter schools and special education reform. Ladner is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and received both a Masters and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Houston. Ladner previously served as vice president of policy and communications at Children First America.
Nick Dranias holds the Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan Chair for Constitutional Government and is Director of the Joseph and Dorothy Donnelly Moller Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute.
Prior to joining the Goldwater Institute, Dranias was an attorney with the Institute for Justice. In law school, Dranias served on the Loyola University Chicago Law Review, competed on Loyola’s National Labor Law Moot Court Team, and received various academic awards. He graduated cum laude from Boston University with a B.A. in Economics and Philosophy.