The Florida Senate has proposed taking a new path on legislation that would create individual accounts for special-needs students.
Earlier versions of the bill would have created education savings accounts based on the state’s core per-pupil education funding. The new proposal would create a Florida Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts program, overseen by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities and paid for by $18.4 million in separate funding.
The program would be open to students with conditions like autism and cerebral palsy who participate in home-education programs, or attend public or private schools.
Like the original proposal, it would give their parents a way to pay for additional instructional materials, private school tuition, or certain kinds of therapy. They could also use the money to save for college or pay for services provided by school districts.
“To me it’s very simple. It’s about more money to kids who need it the most,” said Senate Education Chairman John Legg, R-Trinity, who noted some of the bill’s initial opponents were concerned about funding the accounts in the state’s education budget. “This is additional money for additional services for all kids.”
“What it begins to recognize is that our public schools cannot be health-care providers for everyone,” he added.
Advocates for students with disabilities, including Robyn Rennick of the Coalition of McKay Scholarship Schools, spoke in favor of the bill. Representatives for the statewide teachers union, which opposed the original legislation, withdrew their opposition after the changes were approved. Continue Reading →