The Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program, a school voucher program, was enacted and launched in 2007 to help students with special needs access schools that best fit their needs. Learn more about the program’s details on this page, including eligibility, funding, regulations, legal history and more.
One of 18 school choice programs exclusively serving students with special needs nationwide
4,194 participating students (2016–17)
10 percent of students eligible statewide
272 participating schools (2017–18)
Average account value: $5,606 (2016–17)
Value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 59 percent
The Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program allows any student with a disability whose parents are unhappy with their assigned public school to receive a voucher to attend private school.
Vouchers are worth up to the cost of the educational program a student would have received in public school, as calculated by existing state funding formulas. The voucher may not exceed the private school’s tuition and fees.
To qualify, a student must have been enrolled in a Georgia public school for the entire prior school year. Preschool programs do not count toward that factor. The student must also have received special education services under an Individualized Education Plan at any point in that year, and those services must be reflected in the district’s October or May student count. The student’s parent or guardian must live in the state currently and have been a resident for at least one year.
Georgia’s only voucher program receives strong marks for its funding levels and school requirements. Funding levels are up to the child’s funding in his or her public school. The only school regulations are that participating private schools have a physical location in Georgia, demonstrate fiscal soundness and follow nondiscrimination, health and safety laws along with Georgia’s other regulations that already apply to private schools. Schools also must report to parents on students’ academic progress. The program could increase student eligibility, which is limited to students with special needs who attended public school the previous year. A child with special needs should be eligible for a scholarship in kindergarten or the first year of formal education. Requiring a child to attend their resident public schools when the child’s special needs might be best satisfied in a different school is a disservice to the child. Also, other underserved Georgia students, no doubt, could benefit from a broader program.
O.C.G.A. §§ 20-2-2110 through 20-2-2118
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.
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