Last week, three callous members of the House quietly killed Bill 3101, a proposal that would have provided scholarships to children with disabilities attending independent and private schools.
The “Special Needs Scholarship Program” was designed for parents with handicapped children who felt their local public school was unable to sufficiently provide for the child’s unique educational requirements. HB 3101 created a process to request and authorize a transfer of the student to a neighboring district or to a private school. The proposal was similar to (but financially smaller than) the popular McKay Scholarship in Florida.
The bill would have used the individual education plans (IEPs) created by local school districts to help determine the best educational options for the handicapped students. These IEPs are already required by the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and work to ensure that every student -regardless of their abilities- receives a free and appropriate education.
Many special needs students already attend private schools (with state and federal support) under their IEP. Because of the high cost of educating students with certain types of disabilities, public school districts often choose to send these kids to private schools during the process of developing an IEP. In these cases local, state, and federal money follows the child to that private school.
But HB 3101 was much more narrow in scope. It merely sought to provide parents with a scholarship that amounted to a fraction of the state spending. It further promised that pupils who transfered out would still be counted on the public school rolls for state and local appropriations. In other words – local public schools would not incur the costs of educating the child, but would receive all the local, state, and federal spending on that child anyway.
Neilson, Kirsh, and White are heartless. Their vote to deny benefits to the parents of handicap children once again makes it clear: “defenders” of public schools who blindly reject school choice proposals are not working for the interests of their constituents.