Amid a push-back from special-education advocates, State Rep. Nancy Landry has scuttled a bill that would have established special-ed schools in eight regions around the state. Landry announced in a press release late Thursday that she would not move House Bill 642, which she pre-filed in late March.
Ostensibly, Landry’s bill would have established a scholarship program to allow parents of children with learning disabilities to help cover the cost of tuition at the proposed special-education schools headquartered in the eight metropolitan areas of the state including Lafayette. But opposition to the plan sprang up within days, with opponents of the plan arguing the bill would effectively segregate special-ed students and slap the parents of those students with added costs while skirting federal laws requiring public schools to offer students with learning disabilities “free and appropriate” instruction.
Leading the charge against the bill was Families Helping Families of Acadiana, a Lafayette-based nonprofit advocacy group whose mission, according to the group, “is to assist and strengthen individuals with disabilities and their families through a coordinated network of resources, services and supports.” On April 5, a week after Landry filed the bill, FHFA issued an “action alert” via social media urging parents to contact the Lafayette Republican and express their opposition to the legislation, arguing that the schools established by HB 642 would:
*Not have to provide services needed by a student if those services were not already offered by the school;
*Become segregated educational settings without any requirement to educate students in the least restrictive environment;
*Be able to remove students for violating disciplinary policies or for “good cause” (Note: Federal law requires public schools to not remove students with disabilities from instruction for more than 10 days);
*Be allowed to charge parents tuition (in addition to receiving 200 percent of the amount of funding per student in public schools); and,
*Be allowed to continue receiving funding even after found to not comply with law.
The pressure from FHFA and its allies clearly worked, as Landry acknowledges in her statement Thursday:
I am committed to finding the right solution within education reform to allow all parents, including those of students with learning disabilities, to choose the best school for their children.
I want to thank the passionate and concerned parents who have contacted me concerning HB 642.
My conversations with those parents have led me to the decision not to move HB 642. I will look for a more effective means within education reform to give all parents the choice they deserve to provide the best education possible for their children.
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