Georgia Lawmakers Considering Scholarship Expansion

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

As Greg noted earlier, school choice is back this year, with major proposals under consideration in many states. Potentially lost amidst the sturm und drang of places like Wisconsin and Indiana, some important pieces of legislation have been introduced and have been advancing through the legislative process.  Georgia lawmakers for instance are considering SB 87, a proposal to expand the highly successful special needs law, to include a number of new and worthy student populations.

The law expands eligibility of the Georgia program to include children with disabilities who do not have an IEP (Section 504) children, the children of military families, and foster care children. One can make a compelling case for each of these student populations to have the ability to exercise parental choice in education.

The case for parental choice for foster care children is extremely compelling. Goldwater Institute Senior Fellow Dan Lips made the case for this program by noting that foster care children frequently move between foster care homes. Changing addresses takes them across school district boundaries, obliging them to transfer between schools. Repeated bouncing between schools fatally disrupts the ability of students to learn.

A scholarship program for foster children creates the possibility creating a school as an island of stability for foster care children. Arizona lawmakers passed such a program in 2006, and then Governor Janet Napolitano signed it into law.

The Department of Defense runs a highly regarded system of schools for military students. Sadly, the demand for spaces routinely exceeds the number of available seats. Georgia lawmakers may see fit to expand the schooling options for our parents in uniform, and I certainly will salute them for doing so.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires schools to provide to students with disabilities appropriate educational services designed to meet the individual needs of such students. The ability to choose who provides education services to a child must be a part of generating a truly individualized education, and one that has already been extremely successful for children with disabilities.

Stay tuned to this station for further developments…

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