The push to create individual accounts for students with disabilities picked up bipartisan support in its first Senate committee hearing Tuesday.
But the bill to create “personalized accounts for learning” that parents could use to pay for tutoring and therapy for their children also attracted opposition from groups like the Florida PTA and the statewide teachers union.
Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, said the proposal would be confined to “a very small population of our students” with conditions like spina bifida and cerebral palsy, which would qualify them for a high level of accommodations in the public school system.
“It’s just very difficult for our system to meet all their needs,” she said during the Senate Education Committee hearing. “This gives them another option for their parents to decide the best approach to get their child the best education.”
Several public school teachers spoke against the bill. Joy Jackson, a teacher at Robert Renick Educational Center in Miami-Dade County, said the program could compete for scarce resources with the accommodations made by school districts.
“This is currently a very small population, but if history with these programs has shown us anything, it is that as soon as these programs are made available, they become quite large, quite fast,” said Lynda Russell of the Florida Education Association.
The bill received support in previous hearings from parents who educate their special-needs children at home. They were joined Tuesday by Elias Seife, a Miami-Dade parent who said his daughter has received “excellent support” in the public school system.
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