New Report Documents Benefits of Vouchers for Special-Education Students

May 02, 2008
Karla Dial

(Chicago, IL -- May 2, 2008) Free-market economics has taught us competition improves products--regardless of what that product is. In a study by the Manhattan Institute released April 30, authors Jay P. Greene and Marcus Winters show how that principle applies to special education.

“The Effect of Special Education Vouchers on Public School Achievement: Evidence from Florida’s McKay Scholarship Program” is the first empirical study conducted to date on the effect special-education vouchers for disabled students have on the academic performance of their peers remaining in public schools.

Voucher foes often argue that using taxpayer dollars to subsidize parents who choose private education will hurt public schools. Yet Greene and Winters found that competition boosted the academic performance of disabled students remaining in public schools:

  • Those with relatively mild disabilities made statistically significant improvements on math and reading test scores when nearby private schools began participating in the McKay program;
  • Students diagnosed with a Specific Learning Disability--which encompasses 61 percent of disabled students and 8.5 percent of all students statewide--reaped the greatest benefits; and
  • Voucher availability had no discernible effect on the academic performance of severely disabled students.

Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, and Utah all operate scholarship programs for disabled students similar to Florida’s program.


Karla Dial (dial@heartland.org) is managing editor of School Reform News.


For more information ...

Jay P. Greene and Marcus Winters, “The Effect of Special Education Vouchers on Public School Achievement: Evidence from Florida’s McKay Scholarship Program”: http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/cr_52.htm

The Heartland Institute, Research & Commentary: Special-Needs Vouchers: http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=21288