Special Education Opportunity Scholarship
The bill creates a Colorado Special Education Opportunity Scholarship Program to provide scholarships to parents of eligible students with multiple disabilities to use in purchasing services from an education provider or other educational services as selected by the parent.
Although this bill uses the word scholarship it is essentially a voucher program. Students cannot be enrolled in their public school and the student must be identified as having a multiple disability in order to be eligible for this money. Students would be exempt from the compulsory attendance requirement by maintaining eligibility as a student enrolled in a private school or a nonpublic home based educational program. The scholarship or voucher would be used for an approved private school or an approved private online program. Parents could also use the money for materials and tutoring services, academic enrichment services and approved providers such as Speech and Language, Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Behavioral Therapist, etc. The amount the eligible student receives in scholarship is the amount of the statewide per pupil revenues plus the amount of per pupil special education funding. This scholarship would be administered by a scholarship facilitator and would be paid from the money deposited into the student’s account. The State Board would contract with a scholarship facilitator and they would be paid up to 10 percent of the amount of money the student receives in scholarship.
Students that opt out of public school education often will return to public schools with greater gaps in achievement. Finding qualified instructors or therapists for students with multiple disabilities can be challenging. Parents and school districts need to work together in resolving their differences in order for students to receive appropriate instruction and services. Hopefully, districts will not see this scholarship program as a way for students with multiple disabilities to withdraw from public schools and be served at home or in private schools, when conflict arises.
The amount of money is estimated for a state average PPR of $8,450.45.
The Exceptional Children in Education Act (ECEA) funding is a part of that calculation. The preliminary/estimated Tier A ECEA funding is $1,250.oo per student and the average Tier B ECEA funding is $1,888.00 per student. The Scholarship Facilitator would take up to 10% of the total amount for administration and monitoring. If you look at the responsibilities of the Scholarship Facilitator and the amount they would get paid, I am not sure they would be fairly compensated by the 10% of the scholarship amount. Parents would not have a lot of money to contract with approved providers, buy materials and supplies. Providing a private school education for a student with multiple disabilities would cost more than the scholarship will provide.
This bill would put a burden on families of students with multiple disabilities especially in families where both parents are working. Researching needs of students and appropriate approved providers would be time consuming. Students who were homeschooled would miss out on the social aspect of going to school and learning to live in the community.
Another area of concern would be transitioning students, 18 to 21 years of age from school to the community. Public Schools have transition services in place and have built relationships in the community to assist students with employment and training.