Bill on educating savings grants should be supported

Week eight in the legislature was the first funnel week of the year. This deadline requires policy bills to be out of their originating chamber’s committee in order to be considered for the rest of this year. Imposing a funnel deadline forces legislators to focus on priority bills and bills with enough support to pass the chamber. The days went by quickly with a majority of our time being in subcommittees and committees to make final decisions on bills.

SF 372, as amended, will allow educational savings grants for students with an Individualized Education Program and 504 students enrolling in an accredited nonpublic school. It also allows educational savings grants for IEP students who have been denied open enrollment and wish to attend a public school outside their district of residence. There are approximately 57,000 IEP students and 11,000 504 students in the state. The amount of the education savings grant a student will be eligible for will depend on the weighting the student receives, if any, for being an IEP or a 504 student. However, no matter what the weighting is, the amount the student receives is less than what they would have received if they attended the public school in their district of residence. This means, that for every student who is currently in public school and transfers, either to a private school or a different public school, the taxpayers will be saving money. In fact, taxpayers will save anywhere from $2,800 to $10,000 per pupil that transfers under this program. Contrary to news being put out there by those opposed to this bill, this program has the potential to free up state dollars so more funds can be put into public schools.

The amendment also changed some of the items listed as qualified educational expenses. The bill originally included one computer or other electronic device as an eligible qualified educational expense. This amendment removed computers from the list, but added public school tuition. This was added so that IEP students who have been denied open enrollment out of their district of residence can receive an education savings grant to be used to attend a different public school.

We have heard the concerns people have voiced to us about beginning this program with everyone being eligible. Because of this, we narrowed the program to only IEP and 504 students. These children already have many barriers when it comes to their education. We want to remove as many barriers as possible for these students and empower parents to make the best decisions for their child’s education.

This is not a voucher bill. It is a system that allows parents of an IEP or 504 child to seek reimbursement for eligible expenses to be enrolled in a non-public school. This bill will have very little impact on public schools, but for the parents of an IEP or 504 child it will be life changing.

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