Study: Florida vouchers reduce number of kids labeled as disabled
Researcher Jay Greene’s latest work on vouchers in Florida, released this morning, finds that McKay vouchers for disabled students reduce the likelihood that a struggling student will be labeled disabled (and specifically as having a Specific Learning Disability, or SLD). Why? Maybe, Greene suggests, because districts realize they will not reap the additional funding the state pays for disabled students – and may in fact lose all the funding for that student – if the student’s family chooses to get a voucher and leave public schools.
But if fewer students are labeled disabled, is that necessarily a good thing?
Could it be that the threat of vouchers is causing some schools to not properly identify students as disabled, when maybe they are disabled and could use the extra help? Here’s Greene’s response via an e-mail to the Gradebook:
“You're right that we cannot know for sure whether the reduction in identification of children having SLD is reversing over-identification or causing under-identification. But given the rapid growth in SLD and its very high rate, it is far more likely that it is currently being over-diagnosed and McKay is restraining that over-identification. To believe otherwise we would have to believe that more than 6.2% (a total of 172,000) students truly have a processing problem in their brains and that the tripling of that rate over the last three decades has been caused by a true increase and/or better diagnosis of the disorder. It is simply implausible to believe that more than 6.2% of Florida students truly have an SLD and more than 14% truly have a disability unless we are willing to stretch the word 'disability' well beyond its normal usage.”
Ron Matus, State Education Reporter