More questions than answers

In response to Sen. Jeff Edler’s column titled, “Bill on educating savings grants should be supported,” I’m greatly concerned what this would mean for all parties involved. I think we can all agree that children with disabilities deserve the same high-quality education that children who do not have disabilities receive. What I haven’t heard mentioned in any editorial is how non-public schools are going to meet the federally defined legal educational requirements and needs of children with disabilities.

Public schools employ highly trained educators who have invested significant time and resources in becoming specifically certified by the state to educate children with disabilities. Children with disabilities also often require specialized equipment and instructional materials because of the effects their disability has on their learning. A proportion of children with disabilities even require additional part-time or full-time support services, such as paraprofessionals and health aides, so they can safely be at school. How are non-public schools going to meet these federal requirements?

I also have not heard any discussion about revising the current regulations on open enrollment that allow public schools to deny open enrollment of a child with a disability because the school district they’re interested in attending does not have the resources needed to meet their special education or 504 service needs.

Lastly, I have not read any discussion that clarifies for the public about the funding sources referred to in the column. When a child is found eligible for 504 services, referring to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, schools do not receive any additional funding to provide those services. When a child is found eligible for special education and related services, the additional funding public schools receive are categorical funds, meaning there are federal regulations that specifically define how those monies can be used. Those funds are not “general fund” dollars that can be used to hire classroom teachers, media specialists or purchase technology. Categorical funds have to be used to provide educational services specifically related to special education.

I don’t see how this voucher system will free up any funds for public schools. I don’t see how SF 372 will do more than compromise the quality of services children with disabilities currently receive.