RELEASE: Arkansas House Passes New School Choice Program

RELEASE: Arkansas House Passes New School Choice Program

March 26, 2015

Excel National Applauds Arkansas House of Representatives for Passing the Succeed Scholarship Program 

Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, the Arkansas House of Representatives approved Representative Douglas House’s Succeed Scholarship Program (HB 1552) for students with special needs. The legislation will allow students with an individualized education plan (IEP) to receive a scholarship to a private school of choice, empowering parents to choose the school that best meets the learning needs of their children. Excellence in Education National (@Excel_National) National Legislative Director Mary Laura Bragg issued the following statement in support of this legislation.

“We are grateful for the hard work and commitment of Representative House in bringing this legislation forward on behalf of Arkansas’ students with special needs. Every child deserves a quality education, but so often the unique learning abilities of students with special needs cannot be addressed by every school. The Succeed Scholarship Program will offer those students the opportunity and tools to flourish.

“I also want to thank House Speaker Jeremy Gillam and Education Committee Chair Bruce Cozart for their leadership in advancing this legislation that will greatly benefit Arkansas’ most vulnerable students. We have seen through our experience with Florida’s McKay Scholarship Program that school choice works – the Succeed Scholarship Program will provide students with better services and also help those children who choose to remain in their current schools.”

Learn more about the Succeed Scholarship Program (HB 1552):

  • Enables public school students with an IEP to attend a private school of choice through a scholarship.
  • Requires participating private schools to specify the grade levels and services available for students with severe disabilities. Requires participating private schools to be accredited.
  • Creates a program very similar to a 1999 Florida law, the McKay Scholarship Program, that had numerous benefits for students with special needs:
    • A study done two years after the program was launched, found that 92.7 percent of participants were satisfied or very satisfied with their new schools, the students had smaller classes to meet their more unique learning needs, the students were victimized far less by other students, and their behavior problems dropped by more than 50 percent.
    • Two studies also showed that the law became the necessary push for many public schools to deliver better services to students with special needs. A 2008 study found that public school students with relatively mild disabilities made statistically significant test score improvements in both math and reading. Another study in 2012 showed that Florida’s students with special needs led the nation in combined Math and Reading NAEP gains for students with special needs from 2003-2011.