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December 31, 2002

Bill Would Help Disabled Kids

From: Fort Smith Times Record, AR - 31 Dec 2002

By Rob Moritz
LITTLE ROCK — A bill filed Monday would give parents of disabled children public money for their children to attend private schools.
House Bill 1031, by Rep. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, also would give parents the freedom to send their disabled children to the public school of their choice.
“This would allow kids with special needs to have access to the best possible programs available that meet their needs,” Hutchinson said Monday after filing the bill for the legislative session that starts Jan. 13.
He said HB 1031 was written so parents of blind or deaf students can enroll their children in the Arkansas School for the Blind and the Arkansas School for the Deaf.
Hutchinson described the proposal as a limited form of school vouchers, a program not available in Arkansas that provides public money for children to attend private schools.
“In order to get their children into those schools, (parents) have to get permission from the school district and sometimes the district is reluctant to grant them permission because they might lose federal funding,” Hutchinson said.
Children eligible for the program would have to be in kindergarten through 12th grade who are “mentally handicapped, speech and language impaired, deaf or hard of hearing, visually impaired, dual sensory impaired, physically impaired, specific learning disabled, hospitalized, homebound, or autistic,” according to the bill.
State lawmakers began filing bills and resolutions in November in anticipation of the 84th General Assembly.

© Stephens Media Group, 2002.