Florida’s experiment with personalized accounts that help parents meet the educational needs of their special needs children is only beginning. In coming years, it could support a key priority for the incoming president of the state senate: Helping more of those children gain access to a college education.
Senate President Andy Gardiner told a room full of education advocates and pro-reform lawmakers in Washington D.C. Thursday that he wants to work with colleges and universities to expand higher education options for special needs students. He hopes parents who use Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts for special needs students will be better able to take advantage of those options.
The accounts, created by legislation signed into law this year, allow parents of students with specific special needs to use state education funds to pay for a mix of private school tuition, therapies, home-school curriculum, and other educational expenses. They can also use the accounts to start saving for college. The program is administered by organizations like Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog.
Gardiner, who is the father of an 11-year-old with Down syndrome, said college often seems out of reach for parents of special needs students. They must overcome a belief that “in the eyes of society, they’re not going to be able to get to that point.”
“We’ll come forward with a plan for a post-secondary option for individuals — not with disabilities, but unique abilities,” he said during a panel discussion at the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s annual summit.