From the Arkansas Statehouse...

Home-school plan for autistic children shot down.

In Education on 26 March 2009 at 1:44 pm

The House Education Committee this afternoon narrowly declined to approve Rep. Mark Martin’s plan to allow parents of mentally disabled children to receive state funds for instruction outside the public-school system. The proposal was criticized by some as a masked voucher program that does not meet federal standards.

The bill would allow parents of affected children to educate their children at home if certain standards are met. A therapist or licensed teacher would have to provide most of the instruction, and the child would have to be deemed developmentally disabled by a doctor. Parents who are unhappy with their child’s education at public school would have to apply to the Department of Education to receive the funds.

The bill had the support of several parents of mentally disabled children, one of whom tearfully testified that she had been forced to move her child to multiple schools because of the public system’s inadequate attention.

But Kristen Gould, an attorney for the Arkansas School Boards Association, said the bill did not comply with federal law. She argued that the bill would create a system of entitlements parallel to the public schools and that the state money could be used by parents to send children to private schools.

The committee was not convinced by Rep. Martin’s ominous pre-vote threat that the state would face a “class-action lawsuit on a massive scale” if the bill failed. It voted against the measure 8-11.

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