Ohio’s Successful Austism Scholarship Program Is Good for Districts, Too
Edspresso links to this article about Ohio’s Autism Scholarship Program. The program has been growing since Ohio instituted it in 2003, and now more than 1,000 autistic students use the scholarships to attend private schools and receive specialized therapies.
Ohio’s program is a win-win situation. Of course, the autistic students benefit from the scholarships, but their public school districts have a lot to gain as well. Without the scholarship program, districts would be expected to educate all the disabled students who live within their boundaries. It might be reasonable to ask districts to accommodate mild to moderate disabilities; autism, though, can be another story.
Children with severe cases of autism may struggle to communicate or need constant help with daily tasks. If teachers don’t have experience with this complex condition, it’ll be a challenge for them to get an autistic child through the school day, let alone provide specialized instruction. Some districts recognize this problem and pay private school tuition for autistic students, but a statewide scholarship program is more equitable. Otherwise, a district with an unusually high number of autistic students is burdened with all their tuition bills, while a comparable district with no autistic students needn’t contribute anything.
The General Assembly considered a proposal for an autism scholarship program in Missouri this past year. The public relations campaign in favor of it concentrated on how it would help the children. I’d just like to point out that it would help districts too. In particular, small rural districts that don’t have the resources to treat autism would be free to focus on other students.