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News & Press: Policy

COPAA Cautions on Loss of Rights: Education Freedom Scholarships Unveiled

Thursday, February 28, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Denise Marshall

Today, in response to Secretary Devos’ announcement of federally funded school voucher programs, Denise Marshall, executive director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) issued the following statement:


While today's announcement sounds like an expansion of opportunity for families across the country; opportunities for children with disabilities, to date, come only with forced relinquishment of rights under federal law. Current state-supported voucher programs, and the federally funded D.C. [SOAR] voucher program, cut the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)-eligible child off from IDEA rights and cause loss of services and supports. Anti-discrimination laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may or may not apply. COPAA therefore calls on the Congress and the Administration to promote and support school choice policies that fully uphold all requirements of Federal law, including the IDEA and the ADA. 


As a result of the loss of rights, many families face severe consequences such as: financial strain; push out by private or religious schools when children are deemed too challenging to educate; and, there is often no accountability for student outcomes equal to state accountability systems. This has been documented over several years (See: COPAA 2016 report, GAO 2016, GAO 2017), including in a November 2018 report vetted by the White House that found: “Parents and families using vouchers can lose access to rights; accountability can suffer; vouchers might only cover a portion of private school cost, leaving a majority of families unable to access any choice at all; and the state construct may profoundly affect rights and outcomes for students with disabilities."


Marshall concluded, “If the Administration wants Congress to pass more school choice legislation, they must do so only with the intent to fully support every family whose child may require special education. They also must protect the IDEA dollars that states so desperately need to meet the requirements of the law. In short, more is not better unless more means more of both funding and the equity in opportunity that students with disabilities need and deserve.”


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