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Oklahoma Students With Disabilities Get Voucher Program

The Sooner State has joined Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Utah in creating a voucher program to help pay for private school for children with disabilities. (Arizona had such a voucher program too, but it was struck down last year.)

The bill passed through the Oklahoma state legislature last month and Democratic Gov. Brad Henry signed the measure into law Tuesday. Lawmakers decided to name the bill the "Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Children with Disabilities" in honor of the governor's daughter, who died in infancy of a rare neuromuscular disease. The program will start in the 2010-2011 school year.

The full text of the law is here. There's no set dollar amount that would be given to each student; instead, the amount of the scholarship would be either the private school's tuition or the amount of state aid that would be given to the school district where the student is enrolled, whichever is less. Oklahoma lawmakers say they modeled their program after Florida and Georgia, and in Florida the average scholarship amount is about $7,000 yearly. In Georgia, the average yearly scholarship is about $6,000.

Voucher supporters like the Center for Education Reform are downright gleeful about the passage of this bill. The CER also gave a tweak to the Race to the Top program in its praise.

"The single most transformational education reform programs of our generation—from charter schools in Minnesota, to school choice in Milwaukee, to special needs vouchers in Florida, to tougher standards in a multitude of states—came not as a result of federal prodding, but because of strong state leadership," said Jeanne Allen, the president of the organization, in an email statement. "Sadly, the bean counters in Washington, D.C. will ignore this bold new program, which by its very nature is stronger and more substantive than anything passed this year in any state as a result of the federal $4.3 billion Race to the Top program."

Bold new program? Transformational? What do you think? And feel free to check out the voucher archives on this blog.

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