Learning disabled students can get up to $19,829 of taxpayer money each year to attend private school if they choose – but there is no state accountability to ensure the kids’ needs are being met.
The law that created the vouchers does not require private schools to have anyone on staff with any sort of certification in dealing with children with learning disabilities. Nor are there public controls in place to check whether the schools are helping them.
In Palm Beach County, 1,232 children receive $8.5 million in state voucher money. How much they get depends on on the severity of their disabilities, with amounts ranging from $4,125 to $19,829.
There are 59 private schools in the county that accept the vouchers – and at least 28 of them don’t have full-time special education teachers.
“If someone wants to pay for a school that has no standards out of their own pocket, they’re free to do that. This is America,” said Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of Fund Education Now, an organization that advocates for public education in the state of Florida. “But when you’re taking public dollars and you’re putting them into these private schools that are not regulated and have no obligation to meet the same standards that we impose on our public schools, that’s when the public should become concerned.”