Disability Rights Advocates Are Fighting the Wrong Fight on School Choice

Robin Lake & Sivan Tuchman:

Many respected national groups have recently set their sights on school choice as the new battlefront for disability rights. They are anywhere from open to highly skeptical to adamantly opposed to charter schools and private school choice, often aligning with teachers unions to try to block new proposals or to re-regulate existing policies.

This opposition makes sense in many ways. Schools of choice, to varying degrees, are free of the hard-won regulations that these groups fought for over the last two decades: the right for access to, and inclusion in, general education classrooms, rather than isolated institutional settings; and the right to a defined set of supports and services to help students with special needs succeed in school.

Indeed, there are good reasons to be alert to issues like counseling out, disproportionate or inappropriate school discipline, and denial of services in public charter schools, which are required to comply with the same federal and state protections as district-run public schools. And when it comes to vouchers, education savings accounts (ESAs), and other forms of private school choice, the issues get more complex around student rights and school responsibilities.