Washington, DC – The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling yesterday in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue will harm students with disabilities and weaken our nation’s public schools.
School vouchers and tax-credit programs like Montana’s hurt students with disabilities by redirecting public funds to private schools that are largely unbound by the federal laws in place that protect the rights of students with disabilities.
When students with disabilities use vouchers or tax credits to attend a private school, typically they forfeit their rights mandated by federal law—including the right to an appropriate, individualized education—because the statute’s key provisions do not apply to private schools.
At least seven states have voucher programs that require parents to explicitly waive all or most of their disability rights protections under federal law to participate. In other states, parents often do not realize the rights they are forfeiting: 83 percent of parents of students with disabilities in such programs report that they receive inaccurate or no information on the loss of those rights, according to a federal watchdog report.
The Supreme Court’s ruling will allow states to divert taxpayer dollars from our already underfunded public schools. Public schools educate 90 percent of American children and must do so regardless of economic status, disability, race, or any other factor. Because private schools can pick and choose their students, the Supreme Court’s ruling is tantamount to taxpayer funded discrimination.
Public schools are the foundation of our educational system and the cornerstone of many American communities. All Americans must actively fight against the privatization of our public schools.
NDRN, The Arc of the United States, The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), and a coalition of advocacy and legal services organizations represented by the law firm Clinton and Peed filed an amicus brief in the case in November 2019.
# # #
The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.