Raleigh (April 18, 2018) – Demand for North Carolina’s new Special Needs Education Savings Account (ESA) has surged during the program’s first application year, reports Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC), the state’s leading voice for educational choice. By the close of applications on April 2, 1,430 students had applied for 330 slots to participate in the ESA program, according to the latest numbers from the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA). The 330 available slots are based on the appropriated $3 million at $9,000 per scholarship. NCSEAA expects to begin the award process by the week of April 30th.
“While we’re not surprised, we’ve been blown away by the rush of applications for Special Needs ESAs, a clear indicator that families need this crucial assistance for their exceptional students,” said Brian Jodice, Interim President of PEFNC. “Beginning with the 2018-2019 school year, hundreds of students with special needs will benefit from expanded access to the type of educational tools and instruction they need to thrive. That’s a point of pride for North Carolina, a state that continues to be a national leader on parental school choice.”
Lena Boyd of Charlotte, N.C., applied for the ESA program for her two children with special needs. She says receiving ESA funding would be life-changing for her family. “My children attend a small private school, and I’m helping pay for extra curriculum and learning tools they need,” she said. “My children are also sharing educational technology, and funds from the ESA would allow us to purchase their own devices. This would allow them to do extra one-on-one work outside of school hours.”
The Special Needs ESA program provides up to $9,000 a year for families to pay for educational needs, including private-school tuition, tutoring and teaching, educational therapies, educational technology, and other expenses.
Strong demand for ESAs comes on the heels of efforts to enhance and expand the program. In a bi-partisan vote in February, the North Carolina General Assembly approved new changes to the ESA program, which became law in mid-March. The updates included expanding the pool of students eligible to apply for the ESA and granting first-priority status to students with certain disabilities (such as autism, developmental disability, and moderate or severe intellectual disability).