Sen. Ensign’s office wrote in yesterday in response to our editorial on Palin’s speech last week:
Special education has grown dramatically over the last 20 years and shows no signs of slowing. About 14 percent of public school students have been diagnosed with a disability and receive special education services – this amounts to nearly 7 million children. Unfortunately, parents frustrated with the quality of education that their children are receiving in the public school system face the unappealing and expensive prospect of engaging in a legal fight with the same people who care for their children each day. Five states have taken steps to remedy this situation and have adopted voucher programs specifically tailored to disabled students. In 1999, the state of Florida introduced the McKay program, the first of its kind in the country and the program has been a huge success.
For this reason, Senator Ensign is working on legislation to create a federally funded voucher for all students with disabilities. Each voucher would be paid entirely from a portion of the federal pool of IDEA grant money provided to each state and students would be able to take advantage of these vouchers regardless of whether their state currently has a voucher program in place. Students could use the voucher at any public or private school willing to accept it. Parents could supplement the voucher with their own funds if they wish. Senator Ensign believes that expanding special education voucher programs across the nation could substantially improve the lives of the nation’s nearly seven million disabled students, reduce litigation and costs, and most importantly, improve the quality of education of our nation’s most precious resource.