Lindsey’s Law takes effect, interim hearing August 31
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Published: 27-Aug-2010

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 27-Aug-2010

The parents of special needs students in Oklahoma can now apply for scholarships that allow their children to attend private schools, state Rep. Jason Nelson said today (Friday, August 27).

Lawmakers will soon conduct a legislative study on the new law to seek ways to increase its benefit for Oklahoma families. The first meeting will be held Aug. 31 with a second study date to be scheduled later.

“The Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act became law today, and it’s very important that the families of special needs children are aware of this opportunity and take advantage of it,” said Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. “This program creates new opportunities for many children who would otherwise be unable to obtain educational services truly tailored to their unique needs.”

Under House Bill 3393, also known as “Lindsey’s Law,” children with disabilities who have an individualized education program (IEP) qualify for a scholarship to attend any private school that meets the accreditation requirements of the State Board of Education.

The legislation, authored by Nelson and by state Sen. Patrick Anderson, had strong support from many families of children with autism.

The state Board of Education finalized the rules allowing implementation of the scholarship program on August 26, and parents can now contact their resident school district to apply for the program, Nelson said.

Both Rep. Nelson and Schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett told CapitolBeatOK the process leading up to promulgation of state rules for the scholarship program was described as satisfactory.

“Having visited with many parents of special-needs students, I know how important this scholarship program is to those families,” Nelson said. “It will allow those parents to provide the best education and best future possible for their children beginning this school year. Every parent interested in this program should take advantage of it.”

The scholarship program created through House Bill 3393 does not require new spending, but merely redirects existing state funds that are currently spent on the student.

Other states with similar laws include Florida, Georgia, Utah, Ohio and Arizona. The Florida program has been in place since 1999 and now serves approximately 20,000 students with special needs. House Bill 3393 closely mirrors the Florida and Georgia laws.

The legislation has been named the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act to honor the memory of one of the Gov. Brad Henry’s daughters, who died of a rare neuromuscular disease as an infant.

Lawmakers will soon conduct a legislative study on the new law to seek ways to increase its benefit for Oklahoma families. The first meeting will be held Aug. 31 with a second study date to be scheduled later.

The House Human Services Committee participating in the interim study, with the Tuesday, August 31 meeting beginning at 9:30 a.m., includes Chairman Pam Peterson of Tulsa and Wade Rousellot of Wagoner, vice-chairman.

Other members of the panel are Fred Jordan of Jenks, Sally Kern of Oklahoma City, Al McAffrey of Oklahoma City, Mark McCullough of Sapulpa, Mike Reynolds of Oklahoma City, Mike Shelton of Oklahoma City, Ben Sherrer or Pryor Creed and Weldon Watson of Tulsa.

NOTE: Editor Pat McGuigan contributed to this report.

 

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