The Corner

School Choice Helps Children

A new report from the Manhattan Institute:  

New York, NY:  On Tuesday, April 29th, Manhattan Institute senior fellows Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters released a new study, “The Effect of Special Education Vouchers on Public School Achievement: Evidence from Florida’s McKay Scholarship Program.” Contrary to those who argue that school choice harms public schools, Greene and Winters find that disabled students who remain in public schools made substantial test score improvements when their school faced greater exposure to the McKay program.

The McKay program provides vouchers to all disabled students in Florida who have attended a public school for at least one year. It is the largest voucher program in the United States. Similar programs are currently operating in Ohio, Arizona, Georgia, and Utah. Several other states have also recently considered legislation to adopt special education voucher programs. This study is the first empirical evaluation of the impact of a special education voucher program on the academic performance of disabled students who remain in the public schools.

Highlights of the study include:

  • Public school students with relatively mild disabilities made substantial and statistically significant test score improvements in both math and reading as more nearby private schools began to participate in the McKay program.
  • The largest benefit was found for students diagnosed as having a Specific Learning Disability, a categorization that includes 61% of disabled students and 8.5% of all students in the state of Florida.
  • The academic proficiency of students diagnosed with relatively severe disabilities were neither helped nor harmed by increased exposure to the McKay program.

The authors conclude that the McKay program has had a positive effect on the quality of education that public schools provide to disabled students. 

The issue is ripe for Senator McCain. 

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