Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, Governor Asa Hutchinson signed Arkansas’ 2016-2017 budget (SB 59) which included funding for the Succeed Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities. This groundbreaking program allows up to 100 students with an individualized education plan (IEP) to receive a scholarship to a private school of choice, empowering parents to choose the school that best meets the learning needs of their children. The budget passed the legislature last week with no dissenting votes in either chamber.
“Every child deserves a quality education and providing educational options for students with unique learning abilities can make a life-changing difference. The Succeed Scholarship Program empowers parents with the choice and opportunity to find the school that best helps their child succeed in learning and life,” said Patricia Levesque, CEO of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd).
“We thank the leaders of Arkansas for allowing ExcelinEd to work with them on this important program that will bring life-changing opportunities to students with special needs. We commend Governor Asa Hutchinson, Senate President Pro Tem Jonathan Dismang, Speaker Jeremy Gillam, bill sponsor Representative Douglas House and the members of the Joint Budget Committee for their support of this program and for their dedication to improving the education system for all Arkansas students.”
Learn more about the Succeed Scholarship Program:
- Enables public school students with an IEP to attend a private school of choice through a scholarship.
- Requires participating private schools to specify the grade levels and services available for students with severe disabilities. Requires participating private schools to be accredited.
- Creates a program very similar to a 1999 Florida law, the McKay Scholarship Program, with proven benefits for students with special needs:
- A study conducted two years after the program was launched found that: 92.7 percent of participants were satisfied or very satisfied with their new schools; the students had smaller classes to meet their more unique learning needs; the students were victimized far less by other students; and their behavior problems dropped by more than 50 percent.
- Two studies also showed that the law became the necessary motivation for many public schools to deliver better services to students with special needs. A 2008 study found that public school students with relatively mild disabilities made statistically significant test score improvements in both math and reading. Another study in 2012 showed that Florida’s students with special needs led the nation in combined Math and Reading NAEP gains for students with special needs from 2003-2011.