Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ohio Senate's Unanimous Omnibus Budget Amendment Includes Special Ed Vouchers

Just got a copy of the Omnibus Amendment. The House version of the budget bill included a voucher program for special education students. At the beginning of Senate consideration the program was taken out in favor of a "study" of special ed. vouchers. But now it's back in the Omnibus Budget Amendment that Senate Finance just voted out unanimously. I haven't done a line-by-line comparison, but the essentials of the proposal are unchanged. (The proposal starts at section 3310.51 of the House version, for those of you following along.)

The Special Ed Vouchers Scholarship is another step in the road to universal vouchers. This time, the legislation makes no attempt to make voucher eligibility contingent on need. If a child has an Individual Education Program (IEP), the child can get a voucher, period. Never mind if, for example, the child's family is wealthy and already paying for private school. And never mind if the child's home school runs an excellent special education program. The proposal before the Senate would allow any family to receive money regardless of need. And without the unpleasantness of attending the public school for a couple of months.

Governor Strickland tried to draw a line regarding school privatization by zeroing out EdChoice and putting stronger controls on charter schools. The Special Ed. Scholarship proposal strides defiantly over the line. While he could do little when the legislature removed his proposed language that would have eliminated EdChoice and tightened charter school accountability, he can do something about this. He should use his power to line-item veto special ed vouchers.

DISCLOSURE: The organization I contract with -- Ohio Fair Schools Campaign -- has been lobbying on the budget bill including the various "School Choice" provisions. I personally have been researching special ed vouchers as part of my work and this post reflects some of that research, though I did not bill for writing this post.

3 comments:

Steve O said...

This amendment was brokered by Kevin Coughlin. He apparently worked on it all week long kept it under his hat the whole time.

Steve O said...

Also, despite Strickland's line in the sand on choice, this is not an easy veto for him to make. Kids with special needs have lots of friends.

Pho said...

SteveO:

Thanks for the info. Not surprising that it was Kevy who worked this. He was lead sponsor of an identical bill last session.