Raleigh, NC — Brian Jodice, Executive Vice President of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, released this statement following the North Carolina General Assembly’s passage of House Bill 90, which expands the availability of Special Needs Education Savings Accounts (ESA) for North Carolina students:
“We applaud our North Carolina legislators for passing this crucial bill that not only tackles the issue of class-size reduction in our state but also opens up the Education Savings Account program to thousands of additional students with special needs. This expansion couldn’t come at a better time. Applications for North Carolina’s new Special Needs ESA opened on February 1, and we’ve already seen over 250 applicants for just 330 spots. Clearly, demand for these types of educational options is high and will only grow in the coming years. The Special Needs ESA provides up to $9,000 a year to offset the cost of educational expenses for families with exceptional children. As a statewide education advocacy organization, PEFNC calls on Governor Roy Cooper to sign this bill into law so that North Carolina families with exceptional children—those very children who need help the most—can access its benefits,” said Jodice.
Under House Bill 90, all special-needs students currently eligible to enroll in a traditional public school may be eligible to benefit from these ESAs. As originally passed, North Carolina’s special-needs ESA program limited participation to students actively transferring from public schools to private schools. But with these revisions, all students in a private or home school will be eligible, provided they meet certain eligibility requirements. Additionally, House Bill 90 specifies that children with certain disabilities will receive first priority during this year’s application cycle. These diagnoses include: autism; developmental disability; moderate or severe intellectual disability; multiple, permanent orthopedic impairments; and hearing impairment or visual impairment.
“With a bi-partisan vote today, and legislative leadership from Senator Michael Lee to expand the ESA eligibility pool, state elected officials have reinforced North Carolina’s ongoing commitment to educational options for all families in the Tar Heel State. Beginning in 2011, North Carolina has quickly become a national leader in educational innovation, reform, and choice to ensure that all children receive the education that best meets their individual needs. We commend state legislators for taking yet another step to ensure that North Carolina remains on the tip of the education reform spear,” added Jodice.