The Arizona Supreme court held last week that the state program permitting parents of special education students to receive vouchers to spend at private or parochial schools is unconstitutional. The decision was unanimous. the state constitution specifically bans the use of taxpayer funds to assist private or parochial schools. This link has a news account. Here is another news article. Here is an unofficial copy of the opinion of the court. Because the decision was based upon a state-specific constitutional provision and not the U. S. constitution, the decision will not likely have much application to voucher programs in other states. This decision will, however, likely cause another round of discussion concerning the alleged link between the No Child Left Behind Act and the desire of some folks to allow vouchers for all parents. Stay tuned.
The relationship between private schools and special education law is very complex. Parents who place their children with disabilities in private schools(and I'm not talking about instances where FAPE is in issue) generally give up the right to FAPE under IDEA. Under the 1997 amendments, however, and even more so under IDEA'04, public school districts are required to do some things for private school students. There is a child find requirement. And based upon the child find results, a public school district must spend a portionate share of its federal funding on private school students. Private school parents have only very limited due process hearing rights. Needless to say the private school requirements are very controversial. Any opinions out there?