I taught in the public school system for 4 years. I have also taught in private schools as a math and science tutor as well as early childhood instruction. I have an active teacher’s license with certification for secondary school Biology, Chemistry, and Physical Science. I have a Master’s of Arts degree in Teaching as well as other degrees in Science (BS, BSC, MS).

I was recently made aware of a program in TN called Individualized Education Account (IEA) Program INFO HERE

The program gives parents $6,300 towards tuition, books, and fees if they remove their special needs child with an active IEP (legal obligation of the school to meet the educational and developmental needs of the exceptional child) from the public school system and take on the responsibility of educating their own children. They either have to choose from a LIST OF SCHOOLS TN mandates are allowed in the program, home school, or pay out of pocket for any other private school not listed in their program. The list they provide is mostly faith-religious based schools with no more than 2 schools in major cities. There are 14 schools total in the list for 5 area codes…average of less than 3 schools per major city. These schools are not exclusive for exceptional children and 4 do not practice “inclusion”…meaning students with disabilities are not taught with non disabled children. The other criteria is that no more than 50% of the class are students with disabilities.

The issues that lie in this program fall with these essential points that must be made clear to any and all parents who decide to get involved in this program.

  1. You remove the government’s responsibility to educate your child.
  2. Any overages on any school you choose (not listed in their participating schools) you will be responsible for paying.
  3. Many students receive free, federally funded breakfast and lunch at public schools. This is not available at private schools.
  4. Many students receive counseling to aid in their development in public schools. This is not guaranteed at private schools.
  5. Many students need to learn social skills in order to effectively interact with others. Schools without inclusion hurt such students.
  6. Religious schools are not required to follow IEP and 504 allowances through the ADA law for classroom modifications to meet the needs of exceptional students.
  7. No private schools that exclusively work to meet the needs of exceptional students have tuition at $6300 per year. Many start around $25,000 annually.
  8. Transportation is not provided to take your child to school.
  9. You will be held solely accountable for your child’s education and be required to show they are getting an education.
  10. Some colleges require additional testing and/or accredited school education for applicants.
  11. IEP’s are recognized in college. If your child goes to a private school with no IEP, separate paperwork will need to be filled out as well as a process for their needs to be met at university.

The program TN offers is not feasible for any child with exceptional needs. It is important to note that under the current laws, the government is REQUIRED to give your child an education. If whatever reason your school board can not meet the needs of your child, they are required by law to pay for services including private school tuition so that your child receives an education suited for them.

This program is irresponsible in that families who are impoverished may see this as an opportunity for added income. Many do not realize that they will lose ample rights for their children as well as government funded programs that feed their children at school. Many families do not understand that the public school system under current law provides substantial services that the private sector (religious based schools primarily) do not provide. This program has a seemingly predatory feel. Children lose more rights than gain with this program. Parents will  likely have to spend more money than provided by TN in order to match the services already given to their children in public schools.

I do not as an educator support this program for any standard student who has exceptional needs…UNLESS they are financially sound and prepared to take on all of the costs associated with the services public schools provide for free.

If you are a TN parent and want to know more about your rights, please contact your SPED department at your school for all of the information. I would direct you to the IDEA website, however, the documents that are easy to read for parents have recently been removed. I am happy to let you know the basics of what your rights are in regards to your exceptional children and what the law says. I will be happy to find you resources and direct you to advocacy groups if you need further information. Please feel free to email me HERE or on Twitter with the hashtag #HeyScientistMel and @scientistmel.

Thank You For Reading,

ScientistMel

 

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