To the Editor:
More than 14 percent of Minnesota students are being left out of the school choice debate. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 14.2 percent of Minnesota public school students receive special education services.
The school choice tax credit bill (HF386), currently before the Minnesota Legislature, will divert tax funds to private schools. Private schools can and do exclude children with disabilities.
My family knows what this exclusion feels like. My daughter was asked to leave a private child care center when she was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. We struggled to explain to her why she was leaving the only child care center she had attended since she was 4 months old.
As a mother, it felt like my daughter had been told she was unwanted and unworthy of education. Kids with disabilities are often more expensive to educate, which means that private schools have no incentive, or legal obligation, to include them and provide the supports they need.
Thanks to a federal law, the IDEA, public schools are required to include and support kids with disabilities so that they can learn and grow. Now 6 years old, my daughter is having a successful kindergarten year at her neighborhood public school. She is mainstreamed with supports, has friends, and is thriving socially and academically. We need to direct tax money to public schools that support and accept all children. Not schools that can pick and choose their students.