Implications of Education Savings Accounts for Students with Disabilities

Posted on

May 16, 2023

Edie Surtees, Communications Director

ESAs will impact legal rights for student with disabilities and special education funding

AUSTIN—Disability Rights Texas (DRTx) issued a statement today regarding how Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) could impact students with disabilities in Texas.

If a student with a disability attends a public school, federal laws protect their legal rights so they have access to an appropriate education experience. In a private school, some federal laws that protect the rights of students with disabilities don’t apply. For example, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act does not apply. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is likely not to apply to private schools. At schools owned or controlled by religious organizations, these laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act don’t apply.

ESAs also divert limited state resources away from public schools that are already critically underfunded when it comes to special education services. In recent years, the special education population has significantly increased in Texas, but state funding has not kept pace with the need. In 2020-2021, the state allocated $4 billion for special education services, but local educational agencies spent $6.3 billion and had to use general funds to make up the $2.3 billion gap.

“Students with disabilities in Texas are required by law to have access to a quality education,” said Steven Aleman, senior policy specialist with DRTx. “Denying them access to their legal rights and diverting critical funds away from public schools will lead to poor student outcomes and a future for Texas that is less bright.”

Read DRTx’s statement Education Savings Accounts: Implications for Students with Disabilities.

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Disability Rights Texas is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Texas established in 1977. Its mission is to help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law, ensuring their full and equal participation in society. Visit www.DRTx.org for more information.

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