Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities
- Enacted 2010
- Launched 2010
Oklahoma’s Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities provide students with special needs, in foster care and/or those adopted out of state custody with school vouchers to attend a private school of their parents’ choice. Students must have or qualify for an Individualized Education Plan or an Individualized Service Plan to participate. On this page, you’ll find more information about the program, including funding, eligibility and legal history.
We do not administer this program.
Participating Students (2020–21)
of Students Eligible Statewide
Participating Schools (2020–21)
Average Voucher Value (2020–21)
Value as a Percentage of Public School Per-student Spending
Oklahoma’s Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Participation
The voucher is worth the amount of state and local dollars spending on the child in his or her public school or the chosen private school’s tuition and fees, whichever is less. Foster care students and other students in state placements receive scholarships worth the per-pupil state aid plus any applicable weights (such as those for gifted students or English language learners).
Vouchers may be used for a private school’s tuition, various fees and special education programs and therapies offered by the private school to students with disabilities. The child’s resident school district can keep up to 2.5 percent of the funds for administrative purposes, and the state department of education may retain an equivalent amount for the same purposes.
Any student with an active Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Individualized Service Plan (ISP) 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. Students in out-of-home placement or who were adopted out of state custody are also eligible for scholarships and are exempt from the prior public schooling requirement, as are 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. After receiving a voucher, the child will continue to qualify for the scholarship until the student graduates from high school graduation, turns 22 years of age, or returns to a public school.
EdChoice Expert Feedback
Oklahoma’s voucher for students with disabilities helps thousands of students access schools that are the right fit for them, but policymakers could do more to expand educational opportunity.
Eligibility for the scholarships is limited to students with certain special needs who have an IEP. About one in five Oklahoma students are eligible to receive a scholarship. Statewide, less than 1 percent of students participate in one of Oklahoma’s private educational choice options (including the Equal Opportunity Education Scholarships).
The average scholarship size is about $7,200, which is about 77 percent of the average expenditure per student at Oklahoma’s district schools.
In order to expand access to educational choice, Oklahoma policymakers should increase funding for the scholarships and expand eligibility to all students (prioritizing scholarships based on need). The program could also be converted into an education savings account to ensure that all students have access to the education that’s the right fit for them, whether private school or a customized course of education.
Oklahoma’s voucher program generally avoids unnecessary and counterproductive regulations.
Rules and Regulations
- Income Limit: None
- Prior Year Public School Requirement: Yes, with exceptions
- Geographic Limit: Statewide
- Enrollment Cap: None
- Voucher Cap: Lesser of state & local funds or tuition
- Testing Mandates: None
- Be accredited by the state board of education or approved accrediting association
- Comply with federal nondiscrimination provisions and state health and safety requirements
- Provide services and/or accommodation for students with disabilities
- Have been in operation for one school year prior to participation in the program
- Provide a statement by a certified public accountant that confirms 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
- Not use voucher funds to recoup the general costs of providing general education services
On November 20, 2012, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma in Ind. Sch. Dist. No. 5 of Tulsa Co. v. Sprydismissed on procedural grounds the Jenks Public Schools system’s lawsuit against parentsresiding in their districtusing Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarshipsfor their children with special needs to access private schools that meet their unique needs, 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)
On February 16, 2016, the Oklahoma Supreme Court inOliver v. Hofmeisterruled that the state’s voucher program is constitutional,in a 9-0 decision with one concurring opinion. Several factors were key to the court’s decision:1) participation in the voucher program is voluntary; 2) a parent’s choice of school is strictlyindependent; 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 landmarkZelman v. Simmons-Harriscase (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.” Oliver v. Hofmeister, 368 P.3d 1270 (Okla. 2016)
Oliver v. Hofmeisterbegan in October 2013, when twelveplaintiffs renewed the 2012 legal challenge, this time with proper litigants. The Oklahoma County District Court ruled that the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship for Students with Disabilities program violated Article 2, Section 5—the Oklahoma Constitution’s Blaine amendment—only insofar as the program allowedpublic funds to be used to pay tuition at private“sectarian”schools, described by the court to belike “Notre Dame. . . a Catholic institution through and through”where “religion influences every aspect.” Paying tuition at private “religious-affiliated”schoolslike “Southern MethodistUniversity . . . Methodist in name only”was deemed permissible by this narrow ruling. Oliver v. Barresi, No. CV-2013-2072 (September 10, 2014)