An increasing number of Texas parents are electing to home school their children with special needs or enroll them in private schools instead of having them continue their education in public schools, the Houston Chronicle reports.
According to the Texas Education Agency, the number of seventh- through 12th-graders who left their public schools in favor of home schooling increased 50 percent from 2003 to 2010. The number of middle- and high-school special education students who opted out for private school increased 75 percent.
Some families that feel they are ill-prepared to home school their children with special needs turn to specialty private schools whose tuition rival those of Ivy League institutions, the Chronicle reports.
Parents contend that Texas school districts lack the necessary resources and training to adequately handle students with learning disabilities. And since it's hard for families to win without pricey -- often tens of thousands of dollars worth of -- legal aid, parents choose to put that money into private schools. Cynthia Singleton home-schooled her son, who has autism, for several years before enrolling him in Johnston Middle School.
"When you get into a fight with a school, it's like a divorce," Singleton told the paper. "I'd rather take my energy and money and find an alternative."
According to the Austin-American Statesman, school choice advocates in Texas are pushing members of the Senate Education Committee to implement a vouchers system that would allow public school students to use taxpayer dollars to attend private schools -- a system that is already in place in Louisiana and other states.
At a forum on Friday, national advocates for private school vouchers contended that Texas is behind other states in offering private school alternatives for public school students, specifically those who are low-income or have special needs.
The Statesman reports that one proposal calls for reimbursing parents up to $5,300 for the cost of private school tuition -- 60 percent of the average per-pupil cost for public schools.
Meanwhile, the average private school tuition is reportedly $9,000, and while wealthier families would be able to supplement the state grant money, low-income families would be at a disadvantage, according to Democratic state Sen. Royce West.
"We still end up having a gap between the haves and the have-nots in public education," West said.
In New York, the Department of Education reimburses about $235 million a year in private school tuition to parents who prove public schools did not adequately serve their children with special needs. About 200,000 of the city’s 1.1 million public school students receive special education services.
In Texas, children receiving a “special education” designation in recent years has dropped to a rate of 8.8 percent -- an all-time low, and the lowest in the nation, according to the Chronicle. However, this statistic has resulted in less of an impetus for districts to provide accompanying services for students with special needs.