A system of managed competition, with varying designs in different types of locations, can provide the accountability, accessibility, transparency, coordination, and enforcement necessary to make this very unusual market work for all children.
The Special Education Predictable Cost Cooperative (the Co-op) is a special education finance system that allows the state and local governments to share in special education costs. Our organization, the Connecticut School Finance Project, in partnership with the University of Connecticut’s Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research and Neag School of Education, developed the model to help increase stability and predictability in special education funding for school districts, while ensuring decisions in service delivery and identification remain local.
This year, the bear market looks to be turning, and with Trump’s promise of a $20 billion investment in school choice, the school choice bulls are ready to run. However, any good investment advisor will advise diversifying because going big on any one push can end in disaster. The question for advocates should not be how to make fast gains on a $20 billion investment in school choice, but how to structure that investment to pay off in the long run.
The program, the first of its kind nationwide to be passed that doesn’t limit applicants based on income, would deposit upward of $5,100 in state education funds into a bank account to be used by approved families for private school tuition, tutoring and other expenses. The program was put on hold last year after the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that ESA funding couldn’t come from the state school budget, but supporters are hoping to resolve lingering issues and revive it.
Twelve of 26 voucher programs nationwide are aimed specifically at students with disabilities, as are 3 of 5 educational savings account programs, 2 of 21 tax-credit scholarship programs, and 1 of 9 individual tax credits or deductions.
Allowing federal special education money to follow students would be a radical departure from the current funding mechanism, a complex formula that is tied to a state’s overall share of students as well as its population of students in poverty. And if a voucher program were financed only with federal money, each student’s share would be small based on current funding levels: about $1,800 per student for those ages 3 to 21 with disabilities, according to U.S. Department of Education figures.
The federal tax credit proposal is one of several ideas under review by the White House to fulfill Donald Trump’s campaign promise to promote the expansion of charter schools and vouchers that would allow families of low income to use public money for private school tuition, sources tell POLITICO.
Rural schools have trouble recruiting and retaining good teachers and principals because housing is so limited, pay is so low and working conditions so difficult, education advocates say. Trump has decried failing public schools that are “flush with cash,” but many rural schools — hobbled by a poor local tax base and weak state support — struggle with tight and often shrinking budgets.
“Perhaps the most striking result in the paper is that, for the average church running a voucher-accepting school in the data, vouchers provide more revenue than any other source.”
The tax-credit structure is especially significant when considering what could happen under DeVos in the Trump administration, because it could be a way to promote school choice on a federal level without writing big checks. “There isn’t that much money that is fungible from the federal education budget,” points out Samuel Abrams, an expert in education policy at Teachers College, Columbia University.