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Senate Amends ESA Bill

Mobile phone on open book at desk in classroom

Online and out of state options removed

Today, the Senate Education Committee passed a substitute amendment to Senate Bill 2594 ahead of the March 3rd deadline for committee consideration. SB 2594 would renew the state’s Special Needs Education Scholarship Account program, set to expire on June 30, 2020. The substitute amendment made several changes to the bill originally filed, resulting in legislation to

  • Extend the Special Needs Education Scholarship Account program until 2024
  • Require eligible schools to be state-accredited, special purpose schools or nonpublic schools providing services for a student’s disability
  • Remove the option for students to participate in online programs
  • Remove the option for students to attend school across state lines when parents verify they cannot find a school within 30 miles of their home
  • Remove transportation to and from an education provider as a qualified expense
  • Require parents or the school to reimburse the district if ESA students receive any services through the district
  • Require schools to administer pre and post-assessments and report scores to the department (or parent may report)
  • Change the window of student eligibility to those with an “active” IEP within the past 3 years

The program currently serves hundreds of students from 86 school districts and received a 91% satisfaction rating from parents in December 2018. Created by the legislature in 2015, the ESA program had a waitlist for years until last year when the legislature provided increased funding for the first time. The ESA program gives parents of students with special needs the ability to direct their state tax dollars to a private school and services when they are unable to find success in their public school.

Senate Bill 2594 will now move to the Senate Appropriations Committee before consideration on the Senate floor, which must take place by March 12.