WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Arc is deeply disappointed in this week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. The Court’s decision opens the door for public funds to go to religious private schools that are largely unbound by federal laws in place to protect the rights of students with disabilities.
“We have fought for decades to ensure that students with intellectual and developmental disabilities have access to special education and related services to meet their unique needs. This decision by the Supreme Court will allow for funding for additional private schools across the country that have few, if any, obligations to accept or appropriately support students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Unless required by state law, private schools that accept vouchers are not subject to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act nor the Americans with Disabilities Act. Families who choose to use vouchers may not even realize that they are forfeiting their rights when they move to a private school,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.
Because of the potential negative impact on students with disabilities, The Arc of the United States and a coalition of advocacy and legal services organizations filed an amicus brief in the case in November 2019 asking the Court to uphold the decision made by the Montana Supreme Court invalidating the state’s private school tax-credit scholarship program.
“School voucher and tax credit programs like Montana’s put students with disabilities at risk of segregation in school and receiving inadequate services and supports. These disparities in education can have life-long negative impacts and we simply can’t afford to go backwards. We must focus on increasing funding for public schools and improving education for students with disabilities, rather than forcing families to choose between underfunded public schools and private schools that legally don’t have to serve students with disabilities,” said Berns.
The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.
Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.