Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program
- Enacted 2011
- Launched 2012
The Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship provides Ohio parents of children with special needs enrolled in public schools vouchers to pay for private school tuition, private therapies and other services covered by their Individual Education Plans (IEPs). The Ohio Department of Education sets school voucher limits for different types of disabilities, so funding and eligibility vary. Learn more about that, regulations and more on this page.
We do not administer this program.
Participating Students (2019-20)
of Students Eligible Statewide
Participating Service Providers (Fall 2020)
Average Voucher Value (2019-20)
Value as a Percentage of Public School Per-student Spending
Ohio’s Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program Participation
Vouchers are worth the lesser of fees and tuition charged by the alternative public or private school, the amount of state aid otherwise provided to the public school district, or a maximum scholarship amount ranging from $7,598 to $27,000 depending on a student’s special needs category in 2020–21. The amount is reduced proportionately if the child is not enrolled in the alternative or private school for the entire school year.
The state sets maximum funding amounts for different types of special needs. Parents of students with a category 1 disability (speech and language only) may use the voucher only to pay for services included in their child’s IEP and cannot use the voucher to pay for tuition at a private school.
Children with special needs must be between ages 5 and 21 and have at least an initial Individualized Education Plan (IEP) from their public school district. The state will not award vouchers if the IEP is still in development or is in litigation. Parents’ applications must certify that they have received the methods of instruction to be used with the child and qualifications of the teachers and instructors who will provide services from the alternative or private school. The number of vouchers available is capped at 5 percent of the students with special needs statewide. Eligible students may apply year-round depending on whether funding is available.
EdChoice Expert Feedback
Ohio’s Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program helps thousands of students with special needs access schools that are the right fit for them, but policymakers could do much more to expand educational opportunity.
Eligibility for the vouchers is limited to students with an IEP between the ages of 5 and 21. Only 12 percent of Ohio’s students are eligible for a scholarship and only 2.5 percent of students statewide actually use one of Ohio’s five educational choice programs (including the Cleveland Scholarship Program, the Autism Scholarship Program, the Educational Choice Scholarship Program, and the Income-Based Scholarship Program). The program is capped at 5 percent of students with special needs statewide.
The average voucher value is about $9,900, which is about 72 percent of the average expenditure per student at Ohio’s district schools.
In order to expand access to educational choice, Ohio policymakers should expand eligibility to all students statewide and remove the cap on participation. The program could also be converted into an education savings account to ensure that all students have access to the education that’s the right fit for them, whether private school or a customized course of education.
Ohio’s voucher program generally avoids unnecessary and counterproductive regulations.
Rules and Regulations
- Income Limit: None
- Prior Year Public School Requirement: No
- Geographic Limit: Statewide
- Enrollment Cap: 5% of students with special needs
- Voucher Cap: $27,000
- Testing Mandates: State
- *Limited to students with special needs
- Registered by the state
- Comply with state nondiscrimination laws
- Meet health and safety standards
- Submit in writing to the parents of the qualified child with special needs a profile of the provider’s special education program, including: methods of instruction that will be utilized to provide services to the child and the qualifications of teachers, instructors and other persons who will provide services to the child
- Administer and report the results of the state’s tests, unless the student is excused from taking that assessment under federal law or the student’s IEP
- Have properly credentialed staff
- Educational program approved by the state
- Provide record of the implementation of the IEP of each qualified special education student enrolled in the school, including evaluation of the child’s progress to the school district
- Submit to the state information on the type and cost of special education services given to scholarship recipients
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.
Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program State Groups
That Support School Choice
School Choice Ohio works to ensure that families across the state know about the education options available for their children. They also advocate for the expansion of quality options for every child.