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Feds: Voucher schools need to tell parents of kids with developmental disabilities that they will lose their rights

In a report released last week, the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) is recommending Congress consider requiring states to notify parents of kids with developmental disabilities that they will lose federal special education rights by enrolling in private voucher schools.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), kids with developmental disabilities are guaranteed access to special education services and teachers in public schools, as well as protections from being disciplined because of behavior related to the disability.

Kids lose these rights when parents enroll them in private schools, even those that accept tax-payer supported vouchers. The GAO is concerned parents aren’t aware or being notified about the loss of rights.

The GAO reviewed the websites of private voucher schools and found that less than half mention students with disabilities.

In Indiana, voucher students attending private schools as their special education provider has increased annually. In total, these private voucher schools received a combined special education payment of $1.3 million in 2016 – 17.

Discrimination is also another hurdle most students with developmental disabilities face from private voucher schools. While most students are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, private, religious schools are exempt. More than 95 percent of private voucher schools have a religious affiliation.