(Guest Post by Jason Bedrick)
In a week with so many wins for kids, the North Carolina legislature decided to add another. Today, NC legislators overrode the governor’s veto to pass a budget that included funding increases to the state’s school voucher program and created a new education savings account policy for students with special needs.
Eligible students can receive up to $9,000 annually, and students with the highest need (i.e., those with autism, development disabilities, moderate or severe intellectual disability, hearing or visual impairment, and/or multiple, permanent orthopedic impairments) can receive the ESA funds in addition to NC’s Special Education Scholarship Grants for Children with Disabilities, which are worth up to $8,000. Parents can use ESA funds for private school tuition, tutoring, textbooks, homeschool curricula, educational therapy, certain education technologies, various education-related fees (e.g., standardized tests), and student transportation. Funds are disbursed quarterly on prepaid debit cards after parents submit receipts for eligible purchases in the previous quarter.
All students with disabilities who are switching out of a district or charter school or who are entering kindergarten or first grade are eligible. In addition, students with disabilities are also eligible if they are in foster care, if at least one parent is an active-duty member of the military, or if he or she is enrolled part-time in a public school and part-time in a nonpublic school that exclusively provides services for children with disabilities.
With an ESA, parents like Liz Bradford can provide their children with the education that works for them:
The Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, who worked tirelessly to pass the legislation, praised the passage of the ESA:
As a statewide education advocacy organization, PEFNC applauds legislators for their ongoing commitment to funding educational choice, and to ensure more of our state’s families have access to the educational options they desperately need. […]
With their vote to override the governor’s veto, North Carolina lawmakers continue to solidify our state’s status as a national leader in providing highly impactful and innovative educational options for children and families. Despite the governor’s opposition, the General Assembly is demonstrating our state’s ongoing commitment to initiatives and programs that contribute to improved educational outcomes for students.
For more information, visit the Exceptional Education for Exceptional Children website.
Parents interested in applying for the special-needs voucher can do so at the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority website. Presumably they will also post application information for the new ESA once the program is implemented.