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Missouri Mulls Autism Vouchers


Lawmakers in Missouri are considering following the lead of four other states that offer vouchers to parents of students with disabilities. I wrote about this issue about a year ago. Now, as then, I wonder: Even when such bills pass, are there enough schools available to accept these children?

The Missouri bill would be specifically for children with autism, and the lawmakers for and against vouchers in Missouri make familiar arguments. Those in favor say that such programs are a necessity for parents who don't have good options available to them in public schools. Opponents think it's a ploy to eventually spread vouchers to all students.

The bill under consideration is known as Bryce's Law, named for the grandson of the legislator who is behind the measure.

An alternative plan
proposed by opponents of the measure would create an autism advisory council, an ombudsman to assist parents and districts, and early childhood education centers.


One of the main problems facing parents in Missouri is that public schools already partner with "approved" private providers--but it is the school's decision to send a child there, not the parents. If a parent were to disagree with the school's IEP recommendation without resolution, they literally have to file a lawsuit. They can't even transfer to another public school district that offers something else--they have to move there. That is precisely why the alternative plan would not work. It still leaves the authority with the state and school district. As to your question will there be enough schools to accept all these students: yes, I believe so. The cap for Bryce's Law is 10% of all IEP students across the state, which is about 13,000. I think it's reasonable to assume that across Missouri, 13,000 students (at the most) could find a school that works for them. I've heard parents talking about the massive sacrifices they have made to get their child to the right school--and that the result was that child starting to read or starting to speak after years of stagnant education. That convinced me.

How many imparital hearings does each state have to lose before they realize they need to fund programs (empirically based and well run) for students on the autism spectrum??

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