Voucher schools lack accountability and put students with disabilities at risk, federal study finds

Private schools funded through the taxpayer-financed voucher program generally fail to notify parents of students with disabilities that they are forfeiting rights and protections when they transfer from public schools, according a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The report says vouchers schools lack accountability and transparency, and put students with disabilities – whose parents often don’t know they are giving up federal protections by enrolling in private schools – at greater risk.

Their recommendation: “Congress should consider requiring states to notify parents/guardians about changes in federal special education rights when a parent moves a child from public to private school.”

“The new report from GAO shows the outrageously low standards to which many school voucher programs are held,” said U.S. Representative Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat who requested the GAO review.

“As Secretary DeVos continues her assault on public education and efforts to privatize schools, it is more important than ever to ensure that these programs are held accountable,” Pocan said. “Every student deserves the opportunity to go to a school that meets their needs and every parent should have the guarantee that their child is in a safe, equitable, and successful environment. The U.S. Department of Education must address the concerns in this report and should immediately institute the GAO’s recommendations. Our students deserve nothing less.”

Findings from the GAO report include:

  • Only about half of the private schools participating in voucher programs provided special education or disability related information on their websites, creating a significant problem for families making a decision about where to send their children.
  • Private school voucher programs are inconsistently providing information on changes in key protections and rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) when parents move a child with a disability from a public to a private school.
  • 83% of students who were enrolled in a program specifically designed for students with disabilities were enrolled in one that either provided no information or inaccurate information regarding the changes in IDEA rights.
  • One third of the 27 programs operating in school year 2016-17 had no academic testing requirements and officials in two of the programs interviewed indicated that some private schools were unfamiliar or unequipped to administer standardized tests.
  • Only one third of the programs require schools to publicly report test results.
  • Only four programs provided information on the graduation rates at participating schools.
  • Only an estimated 13% of all private schools participating in voucher programs provide student and school performance data on their websites.
  • Just seventeen of the programs required background checks on all employees or on employees with direct and unsupervised contact with children.

Read a summary of the GAO report by the National Coalition for Public Education:

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Read the full GAO report HERE:

Private School Choice: Federal Actions Needed to Ensure Parents Are Notified About Changes in Rights for Students with Disabilities

GAO found private school choice programs inconsistently provide information on changes in rights and protections under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) when parents move a child with a disability from public to private school. In 2001, the U.S.