Six private schools deemed eligible for state vouchers to educate disabled kids

The Tennessee Department of Education has named the six private schools as the first eligible to accept taxpayer money to educate students with disabilities under a new state voucher program, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

They are:

Academy for Academic Excellence in Clarksville;

Bachman Academy in McDonald  (a community in Bradley County);

Gateway Academy Learning Labs in Nashville and Brentwood;

Madonna Learning Center in Germantown;

Saint Ann School in Nashville;

Skyuka Hall in Chattanooga

The schools will participate in a program that allows parents of students with disabilities to receive public money for private services such as home-schooling, private school tuition and tutoring. Leaders for the schools met the Nov. 1 application deadline for the program, which was created by a 2014 state law called the Individualized Education Act (IEA).

Under the voucher program, families with a child with eligible disabilities can receive an average of $6,000 annually in a special savings account. State officials reported Wednesday that 130 families applied to participate during the upcoming semester, representing less than 1 percent of the 20,000 students eligible statewide. The final number of participants might be even lower, as application materials are reviewed.

All along, state education officials predicted low family participation. That’s because the $6,000 voucher falls far short of the $16,000 average cost of educating students with disabilities. Families who opt in must waive their federal rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which mandates that all students receive a “free and appropriate” public education.

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