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Education savings accounts

Gov. Scott approves expanded Gardiner Scholarships for special needs students

With Gov. Rick Scott's signature, Florida's newest educational choice program will have a new name, and will be able to serve more students. Flanked by Senate President Andy Gardiner and his family, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, and the lawmakers who sponsored the legislation, Scott approved SB 672 this afternoon during a ceremony in the governor's office. The new law increases funding for Gardiner scholarships by roughly a third, to $71.2 million. It also allows more 3- and 4-year-olds to use the education savings accounts for students with special needs, and makes them available to children with muscular dystrophy and a wider range of students with autism. The scholarships,...

Wishing all parents can have access to educational services they need

Note: Parents who have chosen a variety of schooling options have shared their educational wishes for 2016. This is the final installment in this year's series. by Jennifer Wilmot Seven years ago, my daughter was born a beautiful, pink baby girl: six pounds, six ounces, ten fingers, ten toes, and a full head of hair. Yet, just minutes after being placed in my arms that first time, she was diagnosed with a cleft palate, and hours after that, we would nearly lose her to severe heart defects. Since then, my entry into the world of special needs parenting has been a persistent whirlwind. My...

Wishing special needs children can get support they need, without a fight

Note: This week on the blog, parents who have chosen a variety of schooling options will be sharing their educational wishes for 2016. by Lydia Burton When I think of the wishes that I have for my child, so many of them revolve around his education. Not just the ability to tailor his education to his individual needs, to provide him with all of the resources that I possibly can, and to help him realize his full potential, but for other people outside of the special needs circle to truly understand why his individualized education plan is important, and to help stand up...

ESAs and equity: Why the educational choice movement needs the left

Educational choice advocates have urged caution amid early reports that show, so far, Nevada's new, near-universal education savings account program seems to be attracting families who are relatively well-off. They're right to note these participation numbers reflect the "earliest of the early adopters." It will take time for outreach efforts to inform low-income families about their new options, and to allow a new education marketplace to develop in the Silver State. But the early participation data, and the debate swirling around it, also show why it's important for the educational choice movement to cultivate support among people, especially those on the political left, who may be...

Florida House panel backs expansion of special needs scholarship accounts

A Florida House panel this morning unanimously approved legislation expanding Florida's newest educational choice program. The measure would codify changes approved last year that allowed 3- and 4-year-olds with special needs to access Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts. It also expands uses for the accounts. Because the changes were part of a spending plan approved earlier this year during a special budget session, they will expire in the summer if they aren't made permanent. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog and employs the author of this post, helps administer the scholarship program. The House education appropriations panel approved the measure without debate, after two parents told...

School choice, regulation and parents’ diverse needs

Parents need access to quality educational options. But, as several school choice advocates said during an education reform gathering in Orlando on Thursday, they will define quality based on their children's needs. Hergit Llenas is the director of local engagement for the Nevada School Choice Partnership. Her state is home to a new tax credit scholarship and education savings account programs. When parents come to her wanting to know about school options, she said, she usually asks: "Why do you want to leave the school you're in?" Some are looking for academic rigor. Others may be looking for faith-based education. Still others...

ESAs and the next wave of education innovation

Backers of the newest generation of educational choice programs seem to have found a favorite analogy. Education savings accounts, they'll often say, are like the smartphones of school choice. To skeptics, might sound like another lazy tech metaphor in education reform, but there's a reason the parallel between education savings accounts and iPhones has caught on. Advocates of ESAs hope to create a system in which parents to use state funding to cover a wide range of education expenses tailored to their children's needs. They hope that, in turn, will create a platform for new education providers, some of which may be hard to envision today — much like Uber...

Education savings accounts and trusting parents

DENVER - There were more than a few wet eyes in a room full of education reform advocates when Katie Swingle told her story of finding the right school for her son. After learning a traditional public-school setting wouldn't work, she found a specialized private school that could help her son overcome autism, dyslexia, and speech apraxia. She now has hope he'll return to public school one day. On Thursday, Swingle, who has also wowed Florida legislators with her story, said that as states expand educational choice for students with special needs, other parents' stories might be different from hers. While she used a Personal Learning...