Largent Compared School Choice for “Kids with Disabilities” to a Virus

Granbury ISD Superintendent Jim Largent is so hostile to any form of expanded parental choice in public schools he compared a program to give options to the parents of children with developmental disabilities to a “virus.”

In a district-wide email to Granbury ISD employees, Largent criticized an amendment by State Sen. Larry Taylor (R–Friendswood) to a House school finance bill that would have created, in Largent’s words, “an education savings account program (ESAs) for kids with disabilities.”

“The senate’s voucher virus, that some had pronounced dead, found a possible host in the school finance bill that public education advocates had embraced in its original form,” wrote Largent in a May 12th email.

According to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Senate proposal would have given additional options to approximately 609,000 students currently enrolled in special education programs at Texas public schools.

Most states across the nation have provided some form of education savings account option to their students, and parents are overwhelmingly satisfied with the programs.

For example, special needs students in Arizona were given access to a school choice program in 2011. A survey of over half of the participating families during the 2012–13 school year found that 71 percent were “very satisfied,” 19 percent were “satisfied,” and 10 percent were “somewhat satisfied. No respondents registered negative or neutral feedback.

In the meantime, rural school districts often struggle to provide adequate services to their special education students. Providing more choices to parents could improve outcomes for both special education students and traditional students by providing a better allocation of resources.

The merits of the proposal are obvious. However, school administrators like Largent fear the program will be a success and that it will be used to justify greater parental choice across the board.

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Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel for Empower Texans. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony received his J.D. in 2012 from UT Law School. While in school, Tony served as Senior Vice Chairman for Young Conservatives of Texas and helped manage its legislative affairs. During the 83rd Texas Legislature he served as Chief of Staff for Rep. Jonathan Stickland. Tony resides in Austin and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.

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