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Friday, January 15, 2010 - 4:51am

Rules Clarified for Special Needs Scholarship Program

The Board of Education passed rules designed to clear up confusion over a program that lets students with special needs transfer schools.

Under the year-old Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program, students with disabilities can transfer to another public school if there’s room. Or they can go to a private school and the state will pay some of the tuition via a voucher.

School districts must now notify parents of those transfer options at least 10 days before the end of the school year.

Ben Scafidi with the Center for an Educated Georgia says the advance notice mandate was needed.

“Some parents weren’t getting notified until the very last minute and they didn’t have time to exercise the choice," says Scafidi.

The Board also clarified who qualifies. The student must have been enrolled in a Georgia public school for at least a year.

He says the rules are a step in the right direction, but the state should do more… like let kids transfer any time during the year.

“Because in a new school year, things change, so for example if a special needs child is being bullied in a new school year, where they weren’t being bullied in prior year, they’re going to want to make that change, under current law they don’t have that opportunity," says Scafidi.

The program is open to disabled students enrolled in a Georgia public school for at least a year.

Public school advocates oppose the program because it funds private schools with tax money.

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