MOUNT VERNON — Currently under review by the Ohio Senate Education Committee, Senate Bill 6 would establish a special education pilot program. Under the program, in the fiscal years 2012 through 2017, the department of education would pay a scholarship to an eligible applicant for services provided by an alternative public provider or a registered private provider for a qualified special education child.
SB 6 includes a stipulation that “the scholarship shall be used only to pay all or part of the fees for the child to attend the special education program operated by the alternative public provider or registered private provider to implement the child’s individualized education program, in lieu of the child’s attending the special education program operated by the school district in which the child is entitled to attend school, and other services agreed to by the provider and eligible applicant that are not included in the individualized education program but are associated with educating the child.”
Mount Vernon school superintendent Steve Short believes parents should have choices when it comes to educating their children.
“I respect that,” he said. “I think as a district we need to work at making ourselves the best choice. Trying to do things to meet those students’ needs and trying to do those things that help them achieve has been part of what we do, but it has become a much more important part; rightfully so. We would like people to think that we can make some good decisions, but when [legislators] are taking all of our choices away and saying [the school district] has to pay for this, you lose the sense of the public school.
“The perception of school when I went to school was K through 12. It’s not that way any more,” he continued. “And, when you went to kindergarten, that might have been a lot of people’s first school experience. It’s not that way any more. We’re no longer kindergarten through 12th grade. We work with [special needs] students from age 3 to age 22.
“What happens to those kids when they go somewhere else?” Short asked. “Do they still remain part of the district’s report card? We are under the obligation, and we should be, to make sure all of our teachers are highly qualified to teach what they are teaching. Does that same thing happen in charter schools and alternative providers? Is the person going to be required to have a special educator’s license to run the alternative program? I don’t see anything in this bill dealing with the makeup of the alternative public provider or the registered private provider. As a public school, we are responsible and required to make sure all of our teachers are highly qualified teachers.”
The cost of the special education scholarship would be deducted from the state education aid received by the child’s school district of residence. Short said it was interesting that an alternative provider could be able to modify the child’s individualized edcuation plan and therefore charge more for services.
“Who pays for that?” asked Short. “If it is more than what the school district gets from the state, who receives the money? I’m guessing it is going to be the private provider. So the question I have is, what measures are in place to make sure that costs don’t become prohibitive? Because if you start looking at all the possibilities — and it depends on the modification of services — it could be more costly to taxpayers.”