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Grants for special-needs students get House panel nod

Posted April 16, 2013

— Families of special-needs students could receive grants of up to $6,000 a year for therapy outside of public schools under a bill approved Tuesday by a House committee.

House Bill 269 passed the House Education Committee by a 25-10 vote after almost an hour of heated debate.

The bill sets aside more than $3.6 million in the 2013-14 school year to reimburse families who enroll their special-needs children in private schools for the psychological, speech, occupational or other therapy provided to the students.

"Our children are not interchangeable parts. They all have different needs," said bill co-sponsor Rep. Jonathan Jordan, R-Ashe.

The legislation, which next heads to the House Finance Committee, would replace a tax credit for the families of special-needs that lawmakers approved two years ago.

Co-sponsor Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, said the scholarship program is better than the tax credit since it will be open to more people, but some lawmakers complained that $6,000 doesn't come close to the cost of most private schools, which could prevent low-income families from taking advantage of it.

"Whatever (the cost) is, they're $6,000 closer to being able to afford it than they would without this bill," Stam said.

Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, criticized what he says is a loophole in the bill that would allow parents to choose any private school, even those without any special education capabilities, and then get reimbursed for therapy elsewhere.

"This is a $3,000 grant (per semester) for a parent to use wherever he or she wants," Luebke said, calling it part of a "campaign against public schools."

Bill sponsors said parents are best suited to select the treatment program for their children and that they need options because public schools sometimes cannot meet those needs through individual education plans, or IEPs.

"I've spoken to way too many parents who say their IEP doesn't work," Stam said.

"The focus (of the legislation) is on the child, not who's providing the service," said co-sponsor Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham.

5 Comments

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  • sfagg Apr 18, 9:04 a.m.

    Obviously you don't have a child with special needs. My granddaughter, age 6, has severe hearing loss...this has progressed since diagnosed around age 2. She has gone thru 2 sets of hearing aid and had coclear implant last year. She needs speech in order to learn to talk. She gets three 30 minutes sessions per wk at school....If we could afford it, we could pay $200/hr for additional help. Both parents work and do not qualify for Medicaid...but this is a tremendous financial burden for a young family. This bill will be of great help to them!

  • miseem Apr 16, 7:59 p.m.

    "The focus (of the legislation) is on the child, not who's providing the service," said co-sponsor Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham.

    No Bert, the purpose is to get financial assistance to families that don't want their kids going to public schools. There are means to get your kid help if the school system won't. It's call the court system. However, in some cases, anything short of two adults watching their darling is not sufficient. And despite their special needs, if the school system doesn't make them whole again, it's the school's problem.

  • miseem Apr 16, 7:50 p.m.

    It's all in the plan. Who can argue against helping special needs kids. Then as the NCGA proposes, they change the definition of special needs kids (like they are doing on the more at 4) and loosen the definition of what is allowable help under the program. My kid is uncomfortable in crowded classrooms (not that the NCGA has anything to do with that) Voila! Vouchers for anyone who can drive their kid to a private school and pick them up when the day is over.

  • Terkel Apr 16, 3:06 p.m.

    To sum up: the tax credit is unfair to the poor because the poor don't pay taxes.

    The grant is unfair to the poor because it doesn't cover the entire cost.

    How does no tax credit, no grant, take care of your own and have fewer or no kids when you're that poor sound?

  • Terkel Apr 16, 2:46 p.m.

    "...some lawmakers complained that $6,000 doesn't come close to the cost of most private schools, which could prevent low-income families from taking advantage of it." story

    But....but....I thought that's what More at 4 was going to solve! If not that, then 0bamacare! If not that, then Medicaid!