The 2019 Guidebook Featuring Special Education Program Rankings and Scores

Today is the release of AFC’s 2019 School Choice Guidebook. For the first time ever, the Guidebook includes rankings and scores for choice programs designed specifically for children with special needs.
What’s often lost in the vitriolic dialogue around school choice is the fact that nearly half of all private school choice programs exclusively serve students with special needs.
That’s right – 21 out of 55 private choice programs nationwide provide scholarships to students with disabilities.
AFC’s brand new 2019 School Choice Guidebook has tons of data on these 21 programs, including the following highlights:

  • 13 states plus Puerto Rico have special needs scholarship programs
  • 73,408 students received special needs scholarships for the 2018-19 school year – which is more students than are enrolled in most U.S. school districts
  • $7,871 is the average scholarship amount for students with special needs

As with all education programs, the nation’s special education scholarship programs are not created equal. That is why AFC decided to add both scores and rankings for these special education scholarship programs to our new version of the 2019 School Choice Guidebook.
Here’s how the top ranked programs shook out:

A quick summary of how AFC graded these programs:

  • Student eligibility – Programs with broader and more inclusive student eligibility criteria received more points
  • Program & scholarship size – Programs received more points for higher scholarship amounts and for significant increases in student enrollment over time
  • School accountability – Programs received points for requiring that participating schools submit financial reports, conduct background checks on staff, comply with health and safety codes, and report student progress to parents and/or guardians

You can find detailed scores and rankings – and a deeper discussion of this methodology – on Guidebook pages 75-90.
Decades ago, my own mom fought for more than a year to get my sister the special education resourcesshe needed to succeed. So I know firsthand how hard it is for many students with disabilities to get the education they deserve, which is why I’m happy to hear stories like those of Joseph Gauther and Byanca Carrasco. Thanks to school choice programs, Joseph and Byanca were able to get the scholarships they needed to attend schools that support their learning.


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