Texas State Representative Ron Simmons today held a press conference announcing House Bill 1335, legislation to establish an Education Savings Account (ESA) program for special needs and at-risk students in the State of Texas.
“My wife and I know firsthand the challenges parents of a special needs child face when looking for the educational environment that will best serve their child’s needs,” Rep. Simmons said. “We are the proud parents of a young adult son who himself was in a special needs program.”
Joined by Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) and Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas), Rep.Simmons outlined the urgent need to expand education choice for special needs and at-risk students in Texas through Education Savings Accounts (ESA).
“This legislation gives families the ability to craft a tailor-made program for their child,” Rep. Simmons added. “That is what makes this legislation and this type of ESA program so innovative – it would give parents the ability to manage funds that pay for their child’s education, allowing them to create an individualized program based on their child’s needs.”
Education Savings Accounts are accounts managed by parents used exclusively for the educational benefit of their child. Approved education-related expenses include private school tuition, tutoring, therapy and technology. The program would be administered by the Comptroller of Public Accounts.
“As the parent of a child who benefitted from special education, Rep. Simmons understands the unique challenges of special needs and at-risk students as well as the importance of giving parents the flexibility to attain the best education possible for their child,” said TEO Chair and Co-Founder Stacy Hock. “We applaud Rep. Simmons for taking the lead on this important legislation, which will tremendously benefit the children who need it most.”
Upon passage, HB 1335 would allow the parent or guardian of a special needs or certain at-risk students, such as children in foster care or the homeless, to receive 90 percent of what the state spends each year per student.. .
Additionally, the legislation provides protections against additional government regulation on the educational program of a child. Under HB 1335, no school will be forced to alter its creed, practices, admissions policies, curriculum, performance standards, or assessments to receive money under the program.
The bill also provides substantial measures to prevent fraud and ensure the funds in ESA are only spent on approved expenses. Thirty states have a private school choice program; there are five states that have adopted ESAs.