Private Schools Don’t Skim the Best Disabled Students

Published February 1, 2003

Despite several studies demonstrating such claims to be false, critics of school vouchers continue to claim private schools would skim the best students from public schools, leaving public schools to handle all the difficult-to-educate students.

Similar criticism is now being directed at Florida’s McKay Scholarship Program, which provides private school scholarships to disabled children. The program’s critics claim private schools will take only students with relatively mild disabilities, leaving public schools the severely disabled children.

The Manhattan Institute’s new Education Research Office, located in Davie, Florida, recently posted data on its Web site,, that refutes this claim.

According to the data, the types of disabilities found in the population of students using McKay scholarships roughly mirror those found in the population of all disabled students in Florida. For example, 7.7 percent of the McKay students in the current school year are classified as “educable mentally handicapped,” compared to 7.9 percent of all Florida disabled students in the prior school year, the most recent for which data are available. Autistic students make up 2.2 percent of McKay students, compared to 1.4 percent of all Florida disabled students.