Dear Representative ,
Plans to reform Louisiana’s educational system have indicated parents will be provided so they may choose what they feel is most appropriate for their student through either Charter Schools or scholarships to private schools. Unfortunately, while schools are not supposed to discriminate in their admissions practices it appears that students with disabilities, particularly students with significant disabilities are being denied access to and/or appropriate services as outlined within these plans.
One of the major problems with the current proposals are that children with disabilities will not have true access to private schools. Students with disabilities require supports that will not be required by the private schools accepting scholarship funds. The Department of Education recently issued a White Paper making it clear that private schools can accept public funds – scholarships – for children with disabilities yet are not required to provide such students with the special education services proven to help them access the general education curriculum and achieve academic success.
HB976 provides that private schools can choose whether to provide special education services. If these private schools accept scholarships to admit students with disabilities, the parents must agree to waive all protections and services provided under IDEA that enable their student to succeed academically or remain in the failing school they have been attending.
If the private school does choose to admit students with disabilities they must report to the Department of Education which types of student disabilities they choose to serve. This is discriminatory against students denied access to this option based strictly on their disability.
Unfortunately proposed solutions of offering up scholarships to “special schools” defeats the promise of IDEA, where inclusive education is the goal. Research shows that children with special needs as well as their peers without disabilities thrive in inclusive classrooms with appropriate supports in place.
Please consider ALL children, with and without disabilities, in making reforms to our educational system. Parents of children with disabilities want equal access to quality educational services. If parents of students with disabilities must choose between a failing school, scholarship for a private school that will not serve their needs, or a segregated school there is no real option for them to consider.