Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2006
SB 545: Scholarships for Disable Students
August 30, 2006
The special subcommittee held its first meeting on August 30, 2006. During the 2006 Regular Session, Senator H. Russell Potts, chairman of the Senate Committee on Education and Health, appointed a special subcommittee of Senators Lambert (chair), Blevins, and Ruff to study SB 545 and examine the issues relating to scholarships for disabled students. The meeting focused on the amendment in the nature of a substitute for SB 545, which was adopted by the special subcommittee during the meeting. The bill as introduced was amended to provide for a Tuition Assistance Grant Program for Students with Disabilities (Grant Program), rather than a scholarship for disabled students. Senator Stosch, citizens, speakers representing the Virginia Depart-ment of Education (VDOE), and other interested parties attended the meeting.
SB 545 Overview
Senator Stosch, the bill's patron, dis-cussed the amendment in the nature of a substitute for SB 545, which establishes the Grant Program for students with disabilities. The Grant Program provides $10,000 a year in tuition assistance to students with disabili-ties to attend a private school of their choice and is designed to assist families who are dissatisfied with their child's progress in the public schools under an Individualized Education Program (IEP). There are four conditions a parent must meet in order to receive assistance for their child:
• The student
must attend a public school in Virginia and receive special education
services for at least one year.
The Board of Education is charged with promulgating regulations to implement the Grant Program in accordance with the IDEA. The Grant Program sets forth requirements for eligibility of private schools, including that they must be a nonsectarian Virginia private school that holds a current unrestricted license to operate as a school for students with disabilities under Virginia law. Senator Stosch invited several families to share their personal stories with the special subcommittee concerning how their children were unable to succeed in the public schools under an IEP, but flourished in private school.
Abrams - Director, Office of Special Education Instructional Services,
• Schools provide
a free and appropriate public education to every identified child with
a disability, which is defined as a special education and related services
that are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction,
and without charge from birth through the age of 21.
Case law has determined that what is appro-priate means that there must be access to special-ized instruction and that the education must be individually designed to confer educational benefit to the child. Dr. Abrams identified the conditions under which students may receive education services in a private school:
• An IEP team,
which includes the parent, determines that private school placement is
Under the third condition, if the public school provided a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), it would not be required to pay for the cost of educating the child at a private school .
Mr. Ron Geiersbach
- Specialist, Office of Dispute Resolution and Administrative Services,
may be requested any time there is a disagreement between the parents
and the school system.
Statistics were provided regarding the numbers of requests for due process hearings, requests that involved private placements, and actual hearings held over the past few years.
Lacy, Jr. - Special Counsel, Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA)
Citizens opposed to the Grant Program emphasized that the federal system is working and insisted that the legislature fix problems in the public school system before funneling state money to private schools. Speakers against the legislation noted that in the bill the term "dissatisfaction" is not qualified and that the definition of disability appears too broad.
Citizens in favor of the measure included parents who felt that $10,000 would make a difference in a decision whether or not to send their children to private schools. They also shared their due process hearing experiences and difficulties.
The second meeting of the special subcom-mittee was planned and held on September 20, 2006, in Richmond, and consisted of a work session only. Chairman Lambert encouraged the bills patron to continue to amend the legislation based on the concerns of the various parties. A summary of the meeting follows.
The primary purpose of the second meeting of the special subcommittee was to consider suggested amendments offered by the interested parties. The VDOE and Pat Lacy of the VSBA proposed all of the amendments discussed during the work session. The VDOE proposed amendments to clarify that a school division, outside of the student's division of residence, is not required under any circumstances to accept the student for admission. If the school division does accept the student, however, it must not charge tuition. The accepting school division must also report the student in the fall enroll-ment and receive payment in accordance with the provisions of the appropriation act.
The VDOE also proposed additions to the section directing the Board of Education to promulgate regulations, which include:
of a process for verifying the student's initial acceptance, continued
enrollment, and attendance at a private school.
Three amendments were accepted by the special subcommittee from the VSBA. Two proposed amendments clarify that parents, not the school divisions, are required to provide the student's transportation to a private school under the program or to another public school in an adjacent division if that option is chosen. The third amendment clarifies that in the statement requesting a grant, parents must acknowledge that the public school has offered or imple-mented an IEP that is reasonably calculated to provide educational benefit to the student. The subcommittee did not adopt the proposed amendments relating to teacher credentials or Standards of Learning (SOL) tests. Under the bill, if the parent of a student placed in a private school under the Grant Program wishes that the student take the SOL tests, the school must accommodate the request. The proposal that private schools be required to employ teachers in compliance with the Licensure Regulations for School Personnel in order to be eligible to participate in the Grant Program was not adopted. The members requested additional information concerning the current licensure regulations for private day schools for students with disabilities when SB 545 is heard by the full committee of Senate Education and Health.
The special subcommittee recommended to the full committee that SB 545 as amended be reported to the Senate for consideration.
Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2006