Civil Rights Protections for Students with Disabilities in Private School "Choice" Programs in the United States
Williams, Valerie C.
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There is a growing trend in the United States to privatize the public K-12 school by implementing school “choice”. This model has recently received increased attention, as it is the sole priority and policy idea for the U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. This paper examines privatization and its impact on students with disabilities. This model is fraught with complications including access, cost, inequities, rural issues and use of public taxpayer funds for private and sometimes religious institutions. Although many issues sexist in privatization in regards to this population, the primary problem is the loss of civil rights protections and the right to receive a free and appropriate public education, as currently mandated by federal law. Policy action is proposed to deal with the growing number of “choice” programs broadly and those specifically designated for students with disabilities. This paper will examine policy advantages and disadvantages, as well as political implications, both positive and negative. This proposal will improve issues of educational equity and civil rights for students with disabilities. However, it should be noted that the cost of implementation may be significant, as oversight, monitoring, and technical assistance to participating private schools will be required. However, politically this proposal is extremely positive. It will either address some of the problems with regard to this student population and private school “choice”, or it will force a difficult vote on which opponents will have to publicly express their desire to capitalize and privatize the K-12 public school system with no regard for the effects on some of the most vulnerable students. In the process, the needs of these and other special populations will be highlighted and discussed. Lastly, this proposal drives substantive changes in one segment of a problematic policy idea, but more work remains in order for privatization to be a viable option for our nation’s students.