Arkansas Offers School Vouchers to children with Special Needs

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Arkansas embarks on a new school voucher program for families with children who have special needs. 

The program allows parents of children with certain disabilities to use state funding to pay for private education outside of their public school district.  The program essentially gives parents of special-needs children the choice of enrolling them in public schools or in private. 

Little Rock's St. Edward Catholic School is one of seven private schools in the state approved to accept students through Arkansas' first voucher system.  Katie Clifford is the executive director for Arkansas' Reform Alliance, the group behind the program.

"They maybe can't afford a private school without a program like this.  They've been looking at different options, and they might like the opportunity that a private school affords their child."

Clifford said the Succeed Scholarship program allows students with special needs to apply for up to $6,600 dollars of state money per year toward tuition and fees at an approved private school.

"This funding is very specific in that it does not come from the public school fund, so we are not taking away from the public schools to fund this program."

Right now, there are 57 families currently working through the application process.

Only a handful of students have actually been enrolled.

Clifford said there are scholarship funds available for 100 Arkansas children with special needs.

 

"Several parents I've talked to just want a smaller learning environment, some of them just want more one-on-one time.  It really varies among the families, but they just want a different kind of educational environment that they think would be a better fit for their child's needs."

To be eligible for the voucher, students must have an individualized education plan, have attended a public school the year before, and be accepted into the private school they wish to attend.

"Accommodations for dyslexia and ADHD.  We also have students apply who have autism or verbal needs or vision needs," said Clifford.

Arkansas is the only state in the country to pass this type of bill without a single dissenting vote.

If your family fits the needs. you can apply online.