Thursday, January 12, 2012
Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program One Step Closer to Helping Families in the Buckeye State
The Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program is one step closer to helping thousands of families across the Buckeye State this week thanks to the State Board of Education, which just approved rules for the program.
The fourth voucher program in the state and Ohio’s second program specifically tailored to students with special needs, the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program was created in 2011 has a part of the Ohio budget that also expanded the highly popular Educational Choice Scholarship Program and the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program.
The program, named after former state legislator Jon Peterson, a champion of education reform and special education services, is slated to begin in the 2012-13 school year.
But first, parents, advocates, and the state have to know how the program will work. And that information is becoming clearer with this week’s actions from the State Board of Education.
The Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) must approve the program rules before the scholarship program can begin.
But rules and regulations don’t show why special needs school choice programs are important. The stories of families whose lives have changed because of the program do.
Pam and Larry Wells of Kinsman, OH have been raising their grandson Jeffrey, known as J.J., since he was a baby. At age two, J.J. was diagnosed with autism. Then Pam heard about Ohio’s Autism Scholarship Program.
“We feel like new parents again,” said Pam. “It’s been a blessing to have this scholarship. Larry and I would not know what to do [without it].”
Pam and Larry drive 100 miles every day to bring J.J. to and from school where he receives speech therapy and occupational therapy.
In the three years that J.J. has attended the Rich Center, he has made significant improvements.
“I can sum it up in one thing,” said Pam. “J.J. would never make eye contact; he didn’t wave bye bye; but now, he’s fine and uses sign language. He tells us please, thank you, more, all done, and can sign his name.”
And soon more families that are watching their sons and daughters with special needs struggle in public school can access a scholarship and get the educational opportunities they need under the new program.
The Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program is designed for special needs students to receive a voucher to attend the public or private school of their parents’ choice. Students must be identified as having a disability, have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and be eligible to attend public school. Students can receive up to $20,000 in scholarship money to attend private school.
- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG