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Journal of Law and Education

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Many voices over the last decade have called for reform in special education in American public schools. As the number of those receiving services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) has grown, scholars and pundits have increasingly argued that the system not only is failing to meet the needs of many children with disabilities, but in some cases is actively causing harm to those it is intended to serve.

Over the last several years, an increasing number of state legislatures have proposed or have passed laws that give children with disabilities public money to attend a private school. Rather than trying to fix the perceived deficiencies within the existing system, these states instead facilitate the exit of unhappy parents and students from public schools altogether. The evidence suggests that some voucher supporters have focused on children with disabilities because of the political viability of using vulnerable children as the first step towards universal school choice.

The momentum toward vouchers has the potential to make a significant and lasting impact on the manner in which children with disabilities are educated in the United States. Because most states require students receiving vouchers to waive their rights under the IDEA as a condition precedent to receiving state money, this impact will be felt not only at the state level, but also on federal policy going forward.

This article explores the impetus behind the voucher movement, the parameters of existing legislation, the legality of voucher programs, and the corresponding public policy consequences which follow their adoption.


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Recommended Citation

Wendy F. Hensel, Vouchers for Students with Disabilities: The Future of Special Education?, 39 J.L. & Educ. 291 (2010).





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