I weigh in at The New York Times, Room for Debate, on whether we should maintain separate schools for the deaf to the price tag of $87K per kid, and propose that special needs scholarships would be cheaper and offer parents more choice.
California has two schools for the deaf, in Fremont and Riverside, costing $35 million per school (not including capital costs). Combined, they educate close to 800 students a year. This puts the per-pupil cost at more than $87,000 a year - at the expense of other students statewide, including the more than 12,000 deaf or hard-of-hearing students who do not attend the California schools for the deaf.
Unfortunately, even with all of these concentrated resources, the academic outcomes for deaf students enrolled at these separate schools are dismal. According to the California Department of Education 2010 STAR testing results, 0 percent of third-graders were proficient in English language arts at the Riverside school, and 72 percent were far below basic proficiency. By 11th grade, 90 percent of the students at the Riverside school are far below basic proficiency in English language arts.
A much more sustainable financial model, especially given huge state budget shortfalls, would be to have the special needs funding follow the child to the instructional model of his or her parents' choice.
Bonus* Lance Izumi from the Pacific Research Institute makes the case for choice as well.