Think tank: Florida's progress with disabled students shows need for more vouchers
Arizona should establish "education savings accounts" for students with disabilities - and maybe all students - if it wants to achieve the progress that Florida special education students made after the introduction of McKay vouchers, the Goldwater Institute argues in a new policy brief.
The Goldwater Institute is the conservative Arizona think tank that came up with the idea of public contributions to "education savings accounts," which many folks call vouchers-for-all, and which Florida lawmakers may be considering in this year's legislative session. It is arguably Jeb Bush's biggest cheerleader beyond the Sunshine State. Love 'em or hate 'em, the institute goes into some detail about the performance of special education students in Florida, before and after the introduction of McKay vouchers in 1999.
We point it out here because, among other reasons, we don't see enough disaggregation of data for students with disabilities; it's worth looking at, whether you're a fan of vouchers or not.
According to fourth-grade NAEP scores, Florida students with disabilities were right at the national average in 1998, but have progressed at twice the national rate through 2009, Goldwater points out. Florida fourth-graders with disabilities have progressed so much, in fact, they're closing in fast on the average reading scores for all fourth graders in Arizona.
"Florida created new opportunities and options for children with disabilities," the brief says, "and their academic performance has soared."
But are the gains sustained? And should McKay vouchers really get the lion's share of credit? Rather than school grades, or reading coaches, or third-grade retention, or smaller class sizes, or ... ?