Many children, including those with disabilities, attend private schools using public funds through vouchers and education savings accounts (ESA). Many issues have been raised about accountability and transparency of these programs by families, public schools and the education and disability community. At the request of Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI), Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Gwen Moore (D-WI), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined (1) academic, administrative, and financial accountability mechanisms in private choice programs; (2) information available to the public and families on private choice programs and participating schools; and (3) how parents of students with disabilities are informed about changes in rights when enrolling in private choice programs.
In its recently released report, Private School Choice: Federal Actions Needed to Ensure Parents are Notified About Changes in Rights for Students with Disabilities, the GAO found overall that private school choice programs lack consistency with regard to accountability, lack mechanisms for providing accurate information to the public and families and fail to provide parents with information about changes in rights afforded by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The GAO stated in its report, “As more than half of the current private school choice programs are designed specifically for students with disabilities, it is critical that parents have access to quality information about changes in special education rights when they are considering moving their child from public to private school.” The GAO report included recommendations for congressional considerations and executive action that may address their findings if enacted.
The Council for Exceptional Children has long been concerned about these findings as addressed in its Position on School Vouchers and was an active organization that informed the GAO study.