Carol Sadler
Special Education Consultant/Advocate
1105 Rock Pointe Look
Woodstock, GA 30188

I am a lay Parent Advocate assisting parents of children with disabilities in school IDEA, 504 and SST meetings. I am a former CHADD and LDA Coordinator, graduate of the 1st GA Advocacy Office PLSP legal training course and most importantly parent of two children with various disabilities.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Links to Info & AJC Article on SB10 - Scholarships for disabled are a hit

FYI - See AJC article at bottom
Links to SB10
SB10 Law
Georgia Special Needs Voucher
Special Needs Private Scholarship Calculator
Parent Intent to Participate in Voucher Program
Transfer Request Form
Frequently Asked Questions
Advocacy & Consulting Services - IEPadvocate4you
Carol Sadler, Special Education Consultant/Advocate
GA Advocacy Office PLSP I Graduate
1105 Rock Pointe Look
Woodstock, GA  30188
"There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people."   ----  Thomas Jefferson
Information contained in this communication is confidential and privileged.  It is not meant to represent legal or medical advice, but rather advice given based on my knowledge as a trained Parent Advocate by the GA Advocacy Office, Council of Parent Advocates & Attorneys, CHADD, LDA, and the GA DOE Parent Mentor program as an invited guest.  Please do not forward without my permission.
Scholarships for disabled are a hit
3,200 families apply for transfer as private schools sign up

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/11/07

More than 3,200 families have applied for a new Georgia scholarship to send their special-needs children to other public or private schools this fall. But state officials say that with only about 120 private schools willing to accept the tuition voucher, many might be turned away.

Still, the parents' response — which is more than triple the number served in the first year of a similar Florida program— has thrilled supporters, who pushed for the creation of the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship earlier this year.

Previously: State lawmakers passed a taxpayer-funded scholarship program for public school children with disabilities to attend private campuses.
The latest: More than 3,200 families have expressed interest in obtaining a scholarship and about 120 schools want to accept the scholarship kids.
What's next: State Board of Education members on Thursday are expected to approve schools that can participate in the program. Eligible families will have until Sept. 10 to enroll in one of those schools.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR SCHOLARSHIPS •A student who has one or more of the following disabilities: autism, deaf or hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired, emotional and behavioral disorder, intellectual disability, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disability, speech-language impairment or traumatic brain injury.
•Spent prior year at a Georgia K-12 public school and was in attendance on both the October and March student counts. •Has an active Individualized Education Program (IEP) written by the public school.
•Enrolls in a participating private school by Sept. 10.
•Parent lives in Georgia and has been a resident for at least one calendar year.
Source: Georgia Department of Education

"I think we'll have the strongest first year of any state," said state Sen. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah), who as chief sponsor modeled the scholarship after the nation's first voucher program for students with disabilities. It started in Florida seven years ago.

"Of course, I would love for everybody that qualifies ... to find an appropriate school, but we've known all along you can't do that in one year," Johnson said. "It's going to take a couple of years to get up to full strength. Some families will be disappointed, but at least they have hope and an option coming."

Georgia lawmakers created the scholarship program, which will take effect this school year, to enhance educational options for the state's more than 184,000 children with mental or physical disabilities. Under the program, parents may apply for tuition scholarships for disabled children in kindergarten through 12th grade or request a transfer to another public school.

While parents may choose to send their children to another campus within their current school system or a neighboring system, most are expected to seek out private schools.

Atlanta mother Helen Smith said the program is starting at just the right time for her son, Cameron, who will be in sixth grade and has a mild form of cerebral palsy. She's applied for the scholarship with hopes of sending him to St. Peter Claver, a $5,406-a-year Catholic school in Decatur.

"I am concerned about him being in public school in middle school because I really feel the environment is not controlled enough discipline-wise," Smith said. "I'm hoping for a kinder, gentler environment."

While the idea of providing taxpayer-funded tuition vouchers for private and religious schools was hotly contested during the legislative session — even by advocates of special education — the bill passed in the waning hours and was signed into law in mid-May.

Since then, more than 3,200 parents have filled out a form on the state Department of Education's Web site saying they're interested in securing a scholarship. But not all those families are eligible for the financial aid, which is reserved for Georgia residents who had received special education services in public schools during the past year.

Jeff Gagne, a policy specialist at the department who's overseeing the program, said up to 400 applications have been flagged because officials couldn't verify the students had attended public schools. Some may have been schooled at home or enrolled in private school. Others who did meet the criteria also may end up empty-handed, Gagne said, if they can't gain admittance to an approved school by Sept. 10.

"Private schools are private schools, they are not obligated to take all these students. There's nothing in the law that requires them to do that," Gagne said. "So I have no idea how many will actually get a scholarship."

Families may opt out of the program after they discover how much private school tuition the scholarships will cover. That amount — based on state funding used for the child's education in the public school — could run as high as $15,300, Gagne said.

Department officials put a special calculator on their Web site Tuesday allowing parents to see the estimated aid for their child. Duluth mother Donna Scowden wants to send her daughter, Angela, to The Cottage School in Roswell, which works with learning disabled students. But Scowden learned Tuesday she could get about $5,700 from the scholarship — well short of the $9,000 lawmakers touted as the average award and the school's $18,750 tuition.

"You always sort of hope that you will be close to the estimated average, which it's not, so I don't know," Scowden said. "I've basically got to figure out if I can come up with $13,000."

While parents sort out their options, state officials are finalizing details for the coming school year.

About 120 private schools, including many Christian, Baptist, Catholic and Jewish campuses, applied to be participants. State Board of Education members will decide Thursday which may participate.

Only state-approved schools will receive scholarship payments. Public schools are automatically included in the program.

State Rep. David Casas (R-Lilburn), who helped create the program, was pleased to see so many private schools taking part. Although all interested families may not be served, he said, more options will be available.

"You know, this is the first year. It just started and we've only given everybody — schools, families and the government — a month or two to get ready," he said. "So I would just say to those families: Patience. ... It's going to get there."