Maggie Galehouse's article on special-needs children was excellent ("Special needs youths face big AIMS hurdle," Jan. 18).
Making sure these students get the help they need is a serious issue. Sadly there is an epidemic of overidentifying children as learning disabled. Researchers from the National Institutes for Health report that up to 70 percent of "learning disabilities" could be prevented with better reading instruction.
Additionally, in Arizona, a recent Goldwater Institute study by Matt Ladner found that incentives in the way our state funds special education account for roughly 10 percent of disability labels. This practice wastes an estimated $50 million annually.
Overidentifying children as learning disabled takes valuable teaching time and resources away from the students who need it most, students like Sarah Smith, who work very hard to succeed.
That's why Ladner recommends implementing a placement-neutral funding system to remove incentives to overlabel children in the future.
But to help all special needs children now, he also recommends making existing policy more inclusive.
Currently, the state gives around 1,200 vouchers so these children in public schools can attend a private school that meets their unique educational needs.
However, this option is mired in bureaucratic red tape and is typically utilized only by parents who can afford to hire an attorney and force the school district to cooperate with the spirit of the law. All special-needs students should have access to a voucher without having to jump through hoops.
--Vicki E.J. Murray, Phoenix
The writer is education analyst at the Goldwater Institute.