Special-Needs Students Deserve School Choice

October 15, 2008

Jason Murphey

Let's suppose you are one of the growing number of parents whose child has been affected by autism. Each of your waking moments is dedicated to coping with this tremendous challenge.

Now suppose that you are the superintendent of a small school district. As the steward of the taxpayers' resources, you are required to provide an education to all children, but it is very challenging to provide a quality education to the general population and it is extremely difficult to provide the type of education that children with special needs, such as autism, require.

This was the challenge recently faced by the parents and one of the school districts in Logan County. Due to various federal requirements, small school systems have an enormous burden to provide care to special-needs students. However, because of the demands placed on the local educational system, it may be nearly impossible for them to have the resources to provide this care in a manner that takes advantage of the latest therapy methods and really helps get those students on the road to recovery.

This is unfair to the parents of the special-needs children because their tax dollars are being taken by an education system that is challenged to provide a quality product. It can also be unfair to the other students in the school system because the lack of focused resources can take away from their education.

This is a problem that should be solved by school choice. Let's refund the tax dollars of those parents with special-needs children so they can invest that money in the very specialized treatment that their children need. Instead of forcing them to attend a school system that simply cannot meet their needs, they should be allowed to take advantage of the resources offered by those who are experts in the necessary treatment.

"One size fits all" doesn't work when it comes to providing education services. Children with special needs should be treated by those who understand those needs. One constituent contact I have benefited from is an individual whose family has been affected by autism. Instead of letting that experience discourage them, they are working hard to open a clinic to treat autism using the latest treatment methods. These types of private-sector solutions can provide an enormous service to children with special needs, while relieving the public school system of a tremendous challenge.

Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie) represents District 31 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.