By AMBER STEWART
Originally meant to go into effect on Jan. 1, new Individualized Education Accounts for students with disabilities will now not be available until next January.
Originally meant to go into effect on Jan. 1, new Individualized Education Accounts (IEA) will now not be available until next January.
In the law passed on April 22 of last year, parents were given the ability to use money from the state of Tennessee to help educate their children with severe disabilities.
About $6,800 a year will be available in an individual account for each student. These funds can be used for anything from private school tuition to tutoring for home-schooled students to educational therapies to transportation costs.
In the past, if parents did not feel that their student’s needs were being met in public school, the district was responsible for paying for additional services, or in some cases, private school. Now, the state of Tennessee will be funding the accounts.
Any student that has been diagnosed with autism, deaf-blindness, hearing impairments, intellectual disability, orthopedic impairments, traumatic brain injury, or visual impairments is eligible for account funds. They must also have an Individualized Education Program (IEP), a document that is necessary to receive special education services.
Private schools must be approved by the state before receiving IEA funds. The average tuition for Williamson County private schools is around $13,000 a year.
Primarily a school choice bill, these accounts would allow parents to access outside assistance not provided in public schools. However, students would lose their access to educational services granted under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These rights include classroom or extracurricular support services made mandatory in public school settings.
However, if students are unhappy with the change in their educational program, parents may stop receiving IEA funds and transition back into public school services under the IEP.
Rules will be presented to the State Board of Education for a final read this month.
The new law will go into effect next January, and applications for the funds will be made available before the start of the next school year.