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Senator praises special needs scholarships
Eric Johnson Office 2
Sen. Eric Johnson works in his Atlanta office. - photo by Courier file photo
The numbers are in for Georgia’s new scholarship program designed to help parents of special-needs students have more choice in their children’s education and at least one state senator is overjoyed with the results.
Georgia Senate President Pro Tempore Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) recently trumpeted the success of the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship after the Georgia Department of Education released enrollment numbers showing more than 900 students with disabilities have taken advantage of the voucher program.
“We have far exceeded our expectations for the first year. I am committed to seeing to it that all children get the best possible education,” the senator said in a statement. “If parents believe their child can get a better education elsewhere, then it is incumbent upon us to do what we can to provide that.”
The GSNS, sponsored by Johnson, allows parents of special needs students to use the state’s share of their child’s funding as a scholarship to enroll their child in another school, either within the public school system or at a private school.
Some critics of the voucher program have raised concerns about children losing certain protections under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act and argue the vouchers do not go to low-income families most in need of assistance.
Other opponents worry the GSNS is the testing ground for a voucher system for all students that would weaken the state’s public education system because of a speculated exodus to private schools.
Johnson, however, maintains these claims are unfounded and said the scholarship is not about lining the pockets of private schools, but giving special needs parents more alternatives in their students’ education when public schools fail to meet their expectations.
“Public schools do a tremendous job meeting the needs of most special needs students and they are to be commended for that,” he said. “However, all children are different and the special needs scholarship is designed to give parents more options in choosing the best educational program for their child. We recognize that all children are individuals and a different school might more closely meet the needs of the student and parents.”
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