School Choice and Special Education Students

Publication, Education, Dennis Owens

Executive Summary

  • Currently in Manitoba, school divisions receive funding for special education students based upon the number of Level I, II, and III students they have enrolled.
  • Because school divisions control this money, parents have limited say over educational programming decisions for their children.
  • Bill 13 attempts to rectify this situation by providing for a formal appeal process for parents. Unfortunately, this will only serve to centralize decision-making authority and force parents to work within an increasingly bureaucratic system.
  • Several jurisdictions, particularly Florida and Utah, have implemented voucher programs for special education students.
  • The McKay Scholarship Program in Florida was established in 1999 and enables parents of special education students to receive vouchers equivalent in value to the cost of one year of schooling in a regular public school. Parents are then free to spend this voucher in a private or public school of their choice.
  • A survey of the over 9000 participating parents revealed a high satisfaction rate with this program. In addition, class sizes for special education students in this program were almost cut in half.
  • Utah recently passed similar legislation enabling parents of special education students to receive vouchers to spend at schools of their choice.
  • Manitoba should consider emulating these successful programs rather than proceeding along the bureaucratic path of Bill 13.
  • Complete Backgrounder in PDF