New Opportunities Open Up For Kids With Special Needs

New Opportunities Open Up For Kids With Special Needs

New Opportunities Open Up For Kids With Special Needs

Helping Marginalized Students Access Quality Education

Mountain Area Christian Academy recently celebrated the passage of the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Expansion bill, also known as SB 47. After Governor Kemp signed SB 47 into law, Mountain Area Christian Academy hosted the Georgia Center for Opportunity, our partner organizations, and the two sponsors of the bill (state Senator Steve Gooch and state Representative Will Wade) to simply say “Thank you.”

SB 47 increases both funding and access to a quality education for students with special needs. The new law helps schools like Mountain Area Christian Academy address exceptional students according to their needs.

I don’t have to tell you how much this pandemic has damaged students’ educational outcomes—particularly for those with special needs—but what I will tell you is that we will not stop fighting for all students.

At the Georgia Center for Opportunity, we believe that this bill is an important first step as we move to help more marginalized communities access quality educational options statewide.

 

The Special Needs Scholarship expansion opens doors to kids not able to access education opportunities. This is a vital first step in efforts to insure that ALL our kids have access to quality education.

BE PART OF BRINGING OPPORTUNITY TO OTHERS!

Each dollar you give is doubled and goes to support efforts to expand opportunities throughout Georgia.

Kemp signs school-choice expansion bills in Georgia | WASHINGTON EXAMINER

Kemp signs school-choice expansion bills in Georgia | WASHINGTON EXAMINER

In The News

Kemp signs school-choice expansion bills in Georgia | WASHINGTON EXAMINER

Gov. Brian Kemp signed a trio of bills Thursday to expand education options in Georgia.

Senate Bill 47 expands the state’s Special Needs Scholarship program to students with 504 Plans. The program offers scholarships for students with individualized education plans to attend a private school or a public school of their choice…

“Gov. Kemp and lawmakers in the General Assembly have done right by Georgia’s special-needs community, and we applaud them for it,” Georgia Center for Opportunity Vice President of Public Policy Buzz Brockway said. “Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic where so many families of students with special needs suffered disproportionately due to closed classrooms, it’s unconscionable to think we wouldn’t do everything in our power to lighten their load. This is an important first step as we move toward helping more marginalized communities access quality education options.”

Kemp signs school-choice expansion bills in Georgia | WASHINGTON EXAMINER

Kemp signs school-choice expansion bills in Georgia | CENTER SQUARE

In The News

Kemp signs school-choice expansion bills in Georgia | CENTER SQUARE

Gov. Brian Kemp signed a trio of bills Thursday to expand education options in Georgia.

Senate Bill 47 expands the state’s Special Needs Scholarship program to students with 504 Plans. The program offers scholarships for students with individualized education plans to attend a private school or a public school of their choice…

“Gov. Kemp and lawmakers in the General Assembly have done right by Georgia’s special-needs community, and we applaud them for it,” Georgia Center for Opportunity Vice President of Public Policy Buzz Brockway said. “Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic where so many families of students with special needs suffered disproportionately due to closed classrooms, it’s unconscionable to think we wouldn’t do everything in our power to lighten their load. This is an important first step as we move toward helping more marginalized communities access quality education options.”

Gov. Brian Kemp is scheduled to sign Senate Bill 47

Gov. Brian Kemp is scheduled to sign Senate Bill 47

Gov. Brian Kemp is scheduled to sign Senate Bill 47

At 3:30pm today, Gov. Brian Kemp is scheduled to sign Senate Bill 47, a measure that makes vital improvements and updates to the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, the measure passed the House 91-71 and the Senate 3-23.

 

Among other key changes, SB47 will:

  • Expand the program to include a limited list of students with special needs (including autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and dyslexia) who have a 504 plan and formal diagnosis from a licensed doctor.
  • Allow students who attended a public special needs preschool in Georgia to participate.
  • Allow students with special needs who are adopted from foster care to access the program immediately.
  • Make other updates to the scholarship program in line with the renewed need among families for help due to COVID-19.
The Georgia Center for Opportunity’s (GCO) take: “Gov. Kemp and lawmakers in the General Assembly have done right by Georgia’s special-needs community, and we applaud them for it,” said Buzz Brockway, GCO’s vice president of public policy. “Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic where so many families of students with special needs suffered disproportionately due to closed classrooms, it’s unconscionable to think we wouldn’t do everything in our power to lighten their load. This is an important first step as we move toward helping more marginalized communities access quality education options.”

 

Kemp signs school-choice expansion bills in Georgia | WASHINGTON EXAMINER

Poll: Support for school choice increases after COVID shutdowns | KULR8

In The News

Poll: Support for school choice increases after COVID shutdowns | KULR8

After states shut down schools and forced families into virtual learning, parents and families found new ways to provide K-12 education to their children. While doing so, support for school choice options soared, a new poll from Real Clear Opinion Research found.

Among those surveyed, 71% said they support school choice, which is defined as giving parents the option to use the tax dollars designated for their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school that best serves their needs. Across all racial and ethnic demographics, an overwhelming majority expressed support for school choice: Blacks (66%), Hispanic (68%), and Asian (66 percent)…

The Georgia Center for Opportunity’s (GCO) take: “As this poll clearly shows, ensuring educational access for all is a common-sense, non-partisan issue,” said Buzz Brockway, Georgia Center for Opportunity vice president of public policy, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, a sliver of loud and influential special interest groups work to bar parents, families, and students from achieving true educational equity. We can’t allow that to happen. When 65% of registered voters tell you they support a concept like the Education Scholarship Account idea proposed right here in Georgia, lawmakers need to listen.”

Educating our educators on Senate Bill 47 – Special needs scholarship

Educating our educators on Senate Bill 47 – Special needs scholarship

Educating our educators on Senate Bill 47 – Special needs scholarship

We have some great news to share!

Lawmakers in the Georgia House are likely to take up Senate Bill 47 as soon as today. SB47 makes vital improvements and updates to the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an important way we can serve Georgia families and the special-needs community, as many of these students have been left behind due to school closures, learning loss, and lack of access to crucial therapies.

Among other key changes, SB47 would:

    • Expand the program to include a limited list of students with special needs (including autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and dyslexia) who have a 504 plan and formal diagnosis from a licensed doctor.
       
    • Allow students who attended a public special needs preschool in Georgia to participate.
       
    • Allow students with special needs who are adopted from foster care to access the program immediately.
       
    • Make other updates to the scholarship program in line with the renewed need among families for help due to COVID-19.

Sadly, the Georgia School Board Association is lobbying hard against SB47. The organization recently sent an email to supporters listing a number of objections to the measure and urging people to oppose it.

 

“Every child deserves to be wanted.” As a parent of a special needs student, Aidan’s mother, Tiffany struggled to find an education option that saw her son’s value.

Our response to GSBA

Here are those objections and our responses from the Georgia Center for Opportunity team:

There is no requirement that a student be re-evaluated to determine the students’ continued needs or eligibility. For example, an elementary student might have an IEP to receive speech therapy that they would not need after a few years.”

This seems like a red herring. It’s unfair to burden both public school systems and parents with constant revaluations in an attempt to catch a handful who no longer warrant an Individualized Learning Plan (IEP) or 504 plan. This would also create a massive burden on schools to evaluate kids who are no longer in the public school system.

The bottom line is that if a child is succeeding in a new environment, that’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean we should take them away from that school and put them back in an environment where they were not succeeding. We must prioritize the needs of individual students and get them the help they need. That standard is even more important for our neighbors in the special-needs community.

“There is no requirement that a private school provide the services in the IEP or 504 plan that the taxpayers are funding them to receive.”

No, but parents aren’t going to send their child to a school (especially if they need to come out of pocket with resources to do so) if the school cannot or is not meeting the child’s needs.

“There is no report to the taxpayers as to whether the students are receiving services or not.”

“Receiving services” is not an indicator of success. Children who are enrolled in public schools are also “receiving services,” but if their families choose to leave based on this scholarship, those services presumably are not meeting their needs. Parents have their children in the school of their choice voluntarily and they aren’t going to choose a school that can’t meet their child’s needs.

 

“Parents must give up all federal rights under IDEA or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to take the voucher.”

IDEA was something disability advocates had to fight for so that public schools would treat students with special needs the right way. IDEA rights only apply to public schools, so by definition if a child is not in public school, those specific rights do not apply.

This doesn’t mean that these students are being mistreated. In fact, a parent has the ability to leave any private school that isn’t serving their child well, which is currently not the case for public schools. If a child returns to public school at any time, their rights under IDEA are still fully intact. 

An imperfect analogy: You carry insurance on your car in case something happens. Then you move to a large city and can either walk or take the subway everywhere, so you sell the car. Someone might say, “But you gave up your insurance!” No, you gave up your car.

 

“There has never been an independent evaluation of the voucher program so we have no idea about a number of things including its effectiveness.”

There is literally a report that comes out on the program every year that includes 40 pages or so of information including academic performance data.

Parental satisfaction has been the major measure for accountability for this program and nothing in this bill changes that. That is completely inconsistent with a belief in transparency and accountability for the use of taxpayer dollars.

The issue lands here, providing quality education to all students is the goal and responsibility of our education system. It is a system that must take child and parental needs into the equation. When quality education is not accessible to a child (for WHATEVER reason that is) we must provide options. It is our responsibility to give each child a sense of purpose & belonging as we prepare them for their future.