Recently, I wrote about a proposed law that could expand educational opportunities for students with disabilities. The Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program would allow parents who have children with disabilities to customize their child’s learning.
Five states have adopted ESA programs, and more than 7,000 students currently have access to ESAs in Arizona, Florida, and Mississippi. Similar to the programs in other states, Missouri’s program would allow parents to spend ESA funds on services like private school tuition, tutoring, online courses, textbooks, curriculum, and education therapies. The graphic above shows how parents wanting to customize a kindergarten year for a child with autism might choose to spend the ESA funds that would be available to them under the proposed program.
A parent might spend $150 on registration and application fees, $5,000 on a year’s worth of tuition, and $1,000 on therapies, namely behavioral interventions, or arts classes geared toward children with disabilities. In this case, that would leave $658 in the account. When the child graduated from high school, the $658 plus other accrued funds could be directed toward college or other post-secondary programs.
In our current public school system, parents must fight to access the educational services that fit their child’s needs. Organizations like Missouri Special Education Advocates and MPACT provide advocacy and parent training services that help children reach their full potential in the traditional public school system. An ESA program turns a system where parents must fight for a limited number of services into a child-centered system where services reflect a child’s unique abilities.