Choose an audience +

school choice

Oklahoma – Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities

?>

Oklahoma – Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities

Oklahoma’s Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities provide students with special needs school vouchers to attend a private school of their parents’ choice. The program was enacted and launched in 2010. Eligible students must have or qualify for an Individualized Education Plan to participate. On this page, you’ll find more information about the program, including funding, eligibility, and legal history.

Program Fast Facts

  • One of 15 private school choice programs exclusively for students with special needs

  • 377 participating students (2014–15)

  • 16 percent of students eligible statewide

  • 51 participating schools (2014–15)

  • Average voucher value: $6,632 (2014–15)

  • Value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 99 percent

Program Details

Oklahoma’s Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Participation

Students Participating
School Year Ending

Click the + symbols to learn more about this program’s details.

Oklahoma students with special needs currently in public school are eligible to receive a voucher to attend a private school chosen by their parents.

Student Funding

The voucher is worth the state and local dollars spent on the child in his or her public school or the chosen private school’s tuition and fees, whichever is less. The child’s resident school district can keep up to 5 percent of the funds for administrative purposes.

Student Eligibility

Any student with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in effect and who either spent the prior year attending an Oklahoma public school or is the child of an active-duty member of the armed forces who has been stationed in Oklahoma is eligible. After receiving a voucher, the child will continue to qualify each year through high school graduation or until such time as the child would return to a public school. Students who were previously provided services under an Individual Family Service Plan through the SoonerStart program and during transition were evaluated and determined to be eligible for school district services no longer need to have spent the prior school year in attendance at a public school to be eligible.

Friedman Feedback

Oklahoma’s voucher program for children with special needs earns high marks for funding. The program also has fairly minimal regulations: Private schools must meet the state’s accreditation requirements, demonstrate fiscal soundness, adhere to nondiscrimination laws, follow health and safety codes, be academically accountable to parents, and be in operation for at least one year before accepting students. The only shortcoming of Oklahoma’s voucher program is its obvious limitation in terms of student eligibility. Given its other strengths, Oklahoma should consider expanding the program’s eligibility pool to include all students in need.

Rules and Regulations

  • Income Limit: None
  • Prior Year Public School Requirement: Conditional
  • Geographic Limit: Statewide
  • Enrollment Cap: None
  • Voucher Cap: Conditional
  • Testing Mandates: None
  • *Limited to students with disabilities

 

School Requirements:

  • Be accredited by the state board of education or approved accrediting association
  • Comply with state nondiscrimination and health and safety requirements
  • Must have been in operation for one school year prior to participation in the program
  • Provide a statement by a certified public accountant confirming the private school is insured and the owners have sufficient capital or credit to operate or provide record of a surety bond or credit for the amount equal to the scholarship funds for any quarter
  • Teachers must have a bachelor’s degree or at least three years of teaching experience in public or private schools, or have special skills, knowledge, or expertise that qualifies them to provide instruction in the subjects taught

Governing Statutes

Okla. Stat. §§ 70-13-101.1 and 101.2

Legal History

On November 20, 2012, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma dismissed the Jenks Public Schools system’s lawsuit against parents using Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships on procedural grounds, stating the school districts do not have standing as Oklahoma taxpayers to sue under the state’s constitution and that parents were the wrong parties to sue. Ind. Sch. Dist. No. 5 of Tulsa Co. v. Spry, 2012 OK 98, 292 P.3d 19 (2012).

In October 2013, 12 plaintiffs renewed the legal challenge by suing the state as individual taxpayers. In a written opinion released September 10, 2014, the Oklahoma County District Court ruled the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship for Students with Disabilities program violates Article 2, Section 5—the Oklahoma Constitution’s Blaine amendment—only insofar as the program allows public funds to be used to pay tuition at private, sectarian, religious schools; paying tuition at private, non-sectarian religious schools is permissible in this narrow ruling. On February 16, 2016, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the state’s voucher program is constitutional in a unanimous decision with one concurring opinion. Factors key to the court’s decision include, 1) participation in the voucher program is voluntary; 2) a parent’s choice of school is strictly independent; 3) education funding flows from the state to the parent; 4) the program itself is neutral regarding religion; 5) any benefit to a private school is derived from the parent’s choice, not the state; 6) there is no adverse impact on the ability of religious schools to act independently of state control; 7) there is a substantial benefit to the state when a child uses a voucher; it is not a gift. Citing the landmark Zelman v. Simmons-Harris case (see Ohio | Cleveland Scholarship Program), the court said, “When the parents and not the government are the ones determining which private school offers the best learning environment for their child, the circuit between government and religion is broken.”

Questions on School Choice?

Choose your path.

Receive School Choice Updates In Your Inbox