Georgia Senate Passes Special Needs Expansion with Bipartisan Vote

The Georgia Senate passed SB 386 yesterday by a bipartisan vote of 33-22, expanding the special needs scholarship program to reduce barriers for students with special needs who have been unable to access the current Georgia Special Needs Scholarship. It now heads to the House for consideration.

Statement from Jamie Lord, Georgia Government Affairs Advisor for the American Federation of Children:

“After advocating for the passage of the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship program in 2007, I’ve heard story after story from families whose lives have been changed because their child finally had access to an educational environment that allowed them to learn and thrive. At the same time, I’ve also heard from families for whom the program could work better and, tragically, from families who have students with special needs who were inadvertently excluded from participating. SB 386 would finally allow all public school students to participate in the program that was designed to serve them. I look forward to working with the House of Representatives to make this lifeline a reality for families in need.

Details:

This bill would reduce barriers that keep students with special needs from participation by:

  • Including a limited list of students with special needs (such as autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy and dyslexia) who have a 504 plan.
  • Allowing students who attended a public Georgia special needs preschool program to participate
  • Allowing students with special needs who were adopted from foster care to participate in the program immediately
  • Ensuring accurate scholarship funding by basing scholarship amounts on the services received in the most recent FTE count (scholarship amounts could go up or down, but will be based on most recent data)
  • Cutting down on red tape by allowing students who have previously participated in the program to enter the program in the future without having to re-gain eligibility with an additional term in public school
  • Increasing transparency and awareness of the impact of the program