Monday, June 1, 2009

Lexie's Law an important step

"Lexie's Law," a $5 million school-choice tax credit signed into law Friday by the governor of Arizona, is named after Lexie Weck, a seven-year-old girl with autism, cerebral palsy, and mild mental retardation who attends a small private school in Tempe that specializes in working with autistic children. As education scholar Matthew Ladner writes today,
Lexie's Law represents an important step in providing options for parents with disadvantaged children, who are often poorly served by public schools. Florida originated private school choice for special education students with the creation of the McKay Scholarship program in 1999. Today, some 888 private schools educate more than 20,000 special-needs students through the program.

These programs are truly a win for everyone. Disadvantaged students get access to the schools they need and public schools are able to stop diverting funds from general to special education.

Another benefit of these programs is that disabled students who remain in public schools appear to be better-served. As the chart above demonstrates, since the implementation of the McKay program, Florida students with disabilities who attend public schools have made three times as much progress on fourth grade reading as similar Arizona students.

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