Every child should have access to the education that best meets their unique learning styles. Yet, for decades, this hasn’t been the case for students with disabilities in Texas.
Like all children, students with disabilities deserve the opportunity to flourish. But in a nation where education has been designed around the “average” student – rather than tailored to individuals – that hasn’t been happening. Perpetuating this one-size-fits-all approach, as some suggest, won’t help.
Texas families don’t deserve one-size-fits all. They deserve to choose from a suite of great educational options that best fit the needs and interests of their child — including the opportunity to utilize options that work alongside traditional public schools.
Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) allow families to direct resources for their child’s education through approved educational expenses, including private school tuition, textbooks, speech therapy, occupational therapy and tutoring.
Many states have recently passed ESA legislation, including Arizona and West Virginia, for good reason. A recent poll, conducted by yes. every kid., showed that those who spend the most time with America’s children – teachers and parents – are in favor of ESAs. In fact, Americans support ESAs by greater than a four-to-one margin. That support included 59% of teachers, 60% of parents and a majority of both Republicans and Democrats.
That level of broad support signals a desire to move toward a more innovative education system that prioritizes the individual by personalizing learning opportunities.
Of course, families of students with disabilities have known that an individualized approach to education is critical for years. The point of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), is that individuals have unique needs, and their families should be involved with decision-making. Because families know best.
Indeed, in Florida, 90% of parents who participated in the state’s program reported they “were satisfied or very satisfied with the school their child attends.” In Mississippi, 91% of participating families reported satisfaction with the state’s ESA program for students with disabilities. And more than 70% of respondents in Arizona’s ESA program reported being “very satisfied” with their child’s educational experience.
By giving a boost to the educational options available to all of Texas’ families, including the families of students with disabilities, via programs like ESAs, families will have greater say over what’s best for their child, allowing for a more customized experience, and public schools will have a genuine opportunity to innovate and meet the moment.
In fact, research has shown that when more options are presented to families, students’ academic performances in public schools improve.
With a new legislative session upon us, Texas lawmakers have an opportunity to ensure each unique child has access to educational opportunities. This includes prioritizing ESAs, which play a critical role in putting power in the hands of families — allowing them to customize an educational experience that meets the unique needs of their child.
Texas can — and must — do better by its students with disabilities by empowering those closest to them: Their families.