Raleigh, NC – Families, school leaders, special needs advocates, and state officials gathered recently for a trio of public information sessions across North Carolina regarding the new state-sponsored Education Savings Accounts (ESA). ESAs are designed to provide $9,000 in state funds to offset educational expenses for families of students with special needs. The Special Needs ESA will provide up to $3 million in special needs scholarships to North Carolina families in the coming 2018-19 school year.
Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) hosted the ESA forums in Wilmington (November 9th), High Point (November 16th), and Raleigh (November 20th). PEFNC, a statewide organization that promotes parental school choice, led efforts during the spring legislative session to advocate for the new Special Needs ESA.
The three information sessions offered potentially eligible families interested in the program an opportunity to hear directly from the ESA’s legislative sponsors, Senator Michael Lee (Wilmington event) and Senator Chad Barefoot (Raleigh event), as well as the state agency administering the scholarships (the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, NCSEAA).
In total, more than 200 individuals attended the three sessions. Families and school leaders were encouraged to provide questions and feedback to the legislative leaders in attendance.
“As a statewide organization, PEFNC works to ensure that families have the most accurate and up to date information about the parental school choice options available to them. This is important for us as we want our parents fully-informed as they make the best education decision for their children. With the ESA, our third private school choice program in existence since 2011, we are in the position to directly engage parents through these information sessions. We’re grateful that parents and school leaders came out in strong numbers to learn more,” said Darrell Allison, President of PEFNC.
Shaylan Floyd, the mother of a special needs student from Lexington, said, “I was out there in a sea by myself and didn’t understand a lot of it. Coming tonight, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but it was very helpful and educational to know what is out there for my son.”
Jennie Copeland, the mother of a special needs student from Wilmington, noted, “I am very pleased that parental school choice is starting to become something that needs to be looked at. Your child shouldn’t be stuck in a school that’s not suitable for [him or her], because you have one chance with your children.”
Teresa George, the mother of a special needs student from Wake Forest, added, “I think events like these are critical for families to know more about their options, and if this program doesn’t work for me, I can pass that information along to my friends in hopes that it could help them.”
More information about the specific event locations can be found at www.exceptionalednc.org.